DEMISE .. Modi govt loses another minister; Ram Vilas Paswan dead after surgery in Delhi hospital


DEMISE RAM VILAS PASWAN

By KS Shankar

NEW DELHI: Union consumer affairs minister and Lok Janshakti Party leader, Ram Vilas Paswan, passed away Thursday evening. He was 74. The death came after Pawan underwent a heart surgery here last week and was set for another operation in a few days, his son Chirag said.

A Dalit leader from Bihar, Paswan had been operated upon at the Escorts Hospital. He suffered from multiple health issues, organ failure and heart problems. Paswan, a perpetual smile on his face through decades of leadership, handled portfolios of Consumer Affairs as also Food and Public Distribution. The death came weeks before the November assembly polls in Bihar, where campaigning has started in full force. The LJP had decided to face the polls all alone, outside of the JDU-BJP alliance. 

Paswan broke away from the shadow of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) to form his own party in 2000 and continued an alliance with the BJP. He maintained a distance with Nitish Kumar all along. 

It was a fortnight ago that the Modi ministry lost another minister — Suresh Angadi, from Karnataka, who was minister of state for Railways. He died of Covid-19.

Paswan’s exit would be a set-back to the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre, as also for the administrative landscape of a state that’s divided on caste lines.

CHERISHED CAREER AS MLA, MP, SINCE 1969

Hailing from Khagaria district in Bihar, Paswan rose to prominence in local politics at the tender age of 23 when he was elected to the Bihar assembly on behalf of the Samyukta Socialist Party in 1969. A follower of Jai Prakash Narayan, he eventually became the general secretary of the Lok Dal and played a prominent role in the anti-Emergency period. He underwent jail terms repeatedly over his political offensives.

It was Paswan and his brother Ram Chandra who had jointly formed the Lok Janshakti Party two decades ago with an objective to promote the causes of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. Ramvilas Pawan has been a Member of the Lok Sabha from 1977 till 2009, after which he spent a term in the Rajya Sabha since 2010. Later, he returned to the lower house of parliament, and joined the 2014 NDA government led by Narendra Modi. 

A law graduate, Paswan had been selected for the post of DSP in Bihar Police in 1969. He however opted to be a politician. Paswan was twice married: to Rajkumari in the 1960s, and later divorced her. In 1984, he married Reena, his second wife, in which he has a son, Chirag, and a daughter. Reena was an air hostess. His children in the first marriage are Asha and Usha. Chirag, an actor-turned politician is a prominent political leader in Bihar.

An eight-time Lok Sabha member, Paswan started his political career as member of the Samyukta Socialist Party. He was elected to the Bihar assembly in 1969. He later joined the Lok Dal. During the Emergency, Paswan was behind the bars. He entered the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1977 as a Janata Party member from Hajipur constituency. He was elected to the Lower House from Hajipur seven times since then. 

In 1977, after the Emergency was lifted, Paswan famously won the Hajipur seat with a margin of 4.24 lakh votes  — a feat that sent him into a prestigious spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. 

Paswan had good relations with leaders of all other parties. He shifted base too. While he was part of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government in 2001, he, with the same ease, served as a cabinet minister in the UPA government under Dr. Manmohan Singh.

“I am saddened beyond words. There is a void in our nation that will perhaps never be filled. Shri Ram Vilas Paswan Ji’s demise is a personal loss. I have lost a friend, valued colleague and someone who was extremely passionate to ensure every poor person leads a life of dignity,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted. 

PASSING ON MANTLE TO SON

After his brother passed away last year, Ram Vilas Paswan was so pained to a point that he gradually passed on the baton to his young son Chirag, who will now carry forward the work that his father had begun in Bihar.

The Lok Janshakti Party walked out of the National Democratic Alliance in Bihar ahead of the state assembly polls, saying that it will not fight the election under JD(U) president and chief minister Nitish Kumar. IHN=NN

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