Murli Deora, the Congress stalwart from Maharashtra and a Gandhi family loyalist who had friends across political and corporate spectrum, passed away in Mumbai Monday morning after prolonged illness.
The 77-year-old began his political career in 1968-78 as Municipal Councillor, Municipal Corporation of Mumbai.
An economics graduate, Deora was Mayor of Mumbai from 1977 to 1978 and was later elected four times as Member of Parliament for Mumbai South, a seat later held by his son, Milind, who is also a former MP and ex-Union minister.
During 1982-85, he was Member, Maharashtra Legislative Council. He was also former Director, Life Insurance Corporation and ex-Chairman, Maharashtra Small Scale Industrial Development Corporation.
In 1985, he became Member, Eighth Lok Sabha and won three consecutive terms. In 1995-96, Deora became the International President, Parliamentarians for Global Action, New York. In 1998, he won his fourth Lok Sabha poll and was Member, 12th Lok Sabha. He served as Chairman, Standing Committee on Finance 1998-99 and during October 2004 - January 2006 as Member, Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Finance.
A close confidant of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Deora was a key party fund raiser who was on personal terms with most of India's well-known industrialists. He was rewarded for his loyalty when he was picked to replace Mani Shankar Aiyar as Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas in January 2006 during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's first term.
Deora was India's longest serving Petroleum Minister, completing exactly five years in office in a tenure that was spread between UPA-1 and II. During his tenure, he led oil diplomacy in Myanmar, Algeria and Egypt. He also hosted the first India-Africa Hydrocarbon Conference and Exhibition in November 2007.
Deora was known to be pro-US even during the Cold War when India was closely aligned with the erstwhile Soviet Union and hosted several leaders from the US during the 1980s.
A close family friend of late industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani, Deora was regarded as uncle by Dhirubhai's children - Mukesh and Anil. He will be most remembered for being at the centre of a bitter feud between the two warring siblings over natural gas from Krishna Godavari basin in Bay of Bengal. While the Anil Ambani Group accused him of helping Mukesh's Reliance Industries on pricing and allocation of gas and ran an unprecedented newspaper advertisement campaign, Deora was the one who ordered an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of spending in the KG basin fields, a first scrutiny of private books of accounts by the official auditor.
In April 2002, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha. During 2002-2004 he was Chairman, Parliamentarians for Global Action, India and in 2004-05 he was Vice-President, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva.
In April 2008, he was re-elected to Rajya Sabha. Between 19 January 2011-12 July 2011, he was Minister of Corporate Affairs. He was currently serving his third term in the Upper House.
During his political career spanning over four decades, Deora was the longest serving chief of Mumbai Regional Congress Committee which he helmed for 22 years before he quit the post in 2003.