Ram Vilas Paswan – the Cabinet minister in the Narendra Modi government – founder of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) passed away on October 8, confirmed by his son Chirag Paswan’s tweet. He was 74. Paswan was admitted to the city hospital on September 11 and underwent heart surgery on October 4 at the Fortis Escorts Hospital, New Delhi. From the United Front government of Deve Gowda to United Progressive Alliance under Dr Manmohan Singh and National Democratic Alliance under Narendra Modi, Paswan had served in the Union government under six Prime Ministers, hailing from parties of different ideologies. He held various positions of ministerial responsibility in the mines, steel, telecommunications and information sectors.
A Political Career worth Reminiscing
With the Bihar elections around the corner, this news came as a shock to the country while LJP gears up to contest the polls. Paswan had broken away from Janata Dal in 2000 to form his own party, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). He was a stalwart of the socialist movement and emerged as a major Dalit political figure in Bihar, with a huge following from all across the country. His contribution to the implementation of the Mandal Commission report in the 1990s is noteworthy. In 2004, he became a UPA-ally and broke ties with BJP citing the 2002 Gujarat riots. He was back with the party a decade later, when Narendra Modi was looking for allies in 2014. In his role as the Food Minister, he oversaw the world’s largest food welfare programme, especially during the lockdown where the Indian government’s multi-billion-dollar food aid provides cheap rice and wheat to millions of people in India. Last year, he had skipped the Lok Sabha polls and entered the parliament through the Rajya Sabha.
Condolences Pour in from across the Country
His son Chirag Paswan took to Twitter to confirm the news, by saying, “Papa… Now you are not in this world, but I know you are always with me wherever you are. Miss you Papa.” The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind paid his last respects by tweeting, “In the demise of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, the nation has lost a visionary leader. He was among the most active and longest-serving members of parliament. He was the voice of the oppressed, and championed the cause of the marginalized.” He further added,
“A firebrand socialist in youth, mentored by the likes of Jayaprakash Narayan during anti-Emergency movement, Paswan ji had enviable rapport with masses, and he ardently strove for their welfare. Condolences to his family and supporters.”
Sharing a picture with Paswan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “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.” Home ministry officials said the state funeral would be accorded to Ram Vilas Paswan and the national flag will fly at half-mast in Delhi and state capitals on Friday as a mark of respect. The cremation will take place on Saturday in Patna.