When Rajeev Satav took on some of the senior Congress leaders at an internal meeting of the party in August last year, it surprised many. For Satav, who died of post-Covid complications on Sunday, was known to be a soft-spoken leader who avoided open confrontations and believed in adjustments and accommodation, a rather typical Congress trait.
But over the years, he had become close to Rahul Gandhi and had come to be identified as a key member of team Rahul. So the position he took was in tune with the internal tussle that the party is witnessing now. It was political, the internal variety. And he was deeply political too. That episode apart, Satav was non-controversial and unassuming with an ability to make friends. He was after all an organisational man.
“He was a rising star of the Congress party,” Sonia Gandhi said expressing shock at his death.
The 46-year-old Rajya Sabha member indeed had a meteoric rise in the Congress. He began his electoral career as a block panchayat member in 2002 and went on to become both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MP within a span of 18 years. In the organisation, he began as an office-bearer of Maharashtra Youth Congress and went on to become the national president of the Youth Congress, AICC in charge of the key state of Gujarat and a CWC member.
A law graduate and alumni of Pune’s famous Fergusson College, Satav comes from a political family. His mother Rajanitai Satav was a former MLA and minister. But Satav, unlike many of the other young stars of the Congress, rose through the ranks. His rise was only faster though. From a block panchayat member, he graduated to Zilla Parishad of his home district of Hingoli in the next few years and became an MLA for the first time in 2009.
During the same period, he became the president of the state Youth Congress. And in 2010, he was appointed the national Youth Congress president. Party insiders say luck too favoured him as a theory which did the rounds then was that Satav, who was one of the contenders for the IYC chief post, had it easy since two senior leaders, one a former chief minister from the northern belt, wanted to deny the post to another young leader.
Whatever the case may be, Satav registered a steady rise in the party hierarchy. For many, he was one of the upcoming OBC faces of the Congress in Maharashtra. Party insiders say he was close to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot as both belonged to the same caste.
In 2014, as the Congress was decimated across the country, he was among the 44 party MPs. He along with the likes of Sushmita Dev, Gourav Gogoi and Deepender Hooda led the Congress charge in Lok Sabha and often punched above the party’s weight under the leadership of Mallikarjun Kharge.
He assisted Gehlot when the latter was made in charge of Gujarat. When Gehlot moved as AICC in charge of organisation, Satav succeeded him as in charge of Gujarat. He was seen as Gehlot’s pick for the assignment. In 2019, he did not contest the Lok Sabha elections. The talk was that he had a fallout with Congress veteran Ashok Chavan, who hails from the neighbouring district of Nanded and enjoys considerable clout in the region.
The party sent him to Rajya Sabha last year. Last year, he was among the eight MPs suspended when the controversial farm laws were passed in the Upper House.
Sonia said Satav rose from the grassroots to holding many responsibilities in a short time due to his unfailing dedication, sincerity and hard work. Rahul tweeted: “I’m very sad at the loss of my friend Rajeev Satav. He was a leader with huge potential who embodied the ideals of the Congress. It’s a big loss for us all. My condolences and love to his family.”
Satav was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Pune after testing Covid positive last month and was on ventilator support. Later, he developed complications and was diagnosed with Cytomegalovirus infection, following which his condition became critical.