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Former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat Dead

Former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat died on saturday of cardiac arrest, two days after he was admitted to a hospital in Jaipur complaining of uneasiness and breathing problems. 87-year-old Shekhawat breathed his last at 11:10 AM
PTI May 15, 2010 14:38 IST

Former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat died on saturday of cardiac arrest, two days after he was admitted to a hospital in Jaipur complaining of uneasiness and breathing problems. 87-year-old Shekhawat breathed his last at 11:10 AM at the Swai Man Singh Hospital, Dr Narpat Singh, Superintendent of the hospital, said.

He leaves behind his wife Suraj Kanwar and daughter Ratan Kanwar, who is married to BJP MLA Narpat Singh Rajvi, and three grandchildren.

The former Vice President was admitted to the ICU of the SMS hospital on the night of May 13 following complaints of lung and chest infection. When his condition deteriorated this morning, he was put on ventilator, another doctor at the hospital, Ashok Pangaria, told PTI.

The Rajasthan Cabinet held an emergency meeting to mourn his death and declared a three-day state mourning. The funeral will take place here tomorrow with full state honours.

Shekhawat's embalmed body will be kept at his bungalow in the civil lines area here to enable people to pay their last respects. The body will later be taken to the BJP office before cremation at Chandpol ground. As news of his death spread, leaders transcending political barriers rushed to his residence to pay their tributes.

Respected as a deft politician, Shekhawat enjoyed the enviable reputation of 'Ajatshatru' -- for having friends across the political spectrum in his over five decades-long political career.

"Age is no bar for me", Shekhawat had said when he was Vice President and had climbed the Eiffel Tower at the age of 83. The remark was significant and gave a clear indication that he would run for the Presidentship of India, the election for which was due in 2007 even though the odds were clearly against him. Shekhawat eventually lost the Presidential race to Pratibha Patil.

Born on October 23, 1923, in Khachariyawas, a small village in Sikar district of the desert state, he was sworn-in as the country's 12th Vice President on August 19, 2002.

Shekhawat was the only member of the Rajasthan Assembly to have won in every assembly election since 1952, except in 1972 when he lost from Gandhi Nagar in Jaipur. He was also elected to the Rajya Sabha from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh in 1974.

He enjoyed the distinction of heading three non-Congress governments in the state in 1977, 1990 and 1993. BJP President Nitin Gadkari described Shekhawat's demise as a national loss. "He was a guiding spirit and pillar of Bharatiya Janata Party. His contribution to the party and the nation will always be remembered," Gadkari told.

As Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Shekhawat had introduced 'Antodaya Yojna' to fulfil the foodgrain needs of the poor, Gadkari said and described Shekhawat as a "generous person". Gadkari, who was to leave for Europe tomorrow, has cancelled his trip. He would reach here tomorrow to attend the funeral.

Senior BJP leader L K Advani and a host of other leaders will arrive here by tomorrow to pay their last respects.   Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who was in Delhi, reached here. She said, "The death of Shekhawat is not only great loss to the nation but to me also. He was my guide and I have learnt a lot from him. Shekhawat would be remembered as Vikas Purush."

Rajasthan Governor Shivraj Patil in his condolence message said Shekhawat was a popular political leader who served the nation as well as people through active politics.

Haryana Governor Jagannath Pahadia and Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda condoled the death of the former Vice President.

Pahadia said Shekhawat's contribution as the Vice President and Chief Minister of Rajasthan would be long remembered.

Hooda described Shekhawat as a seasoned and committed politician and parliamentarian, who served at different positions in his six-decade-long public life.

Union Minister of state Namo Narayan Meena, state Industry Minister Rajendra Pareek, Deputy Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan Vidhansabha Ghanshyam Tiwari, BJP state chief Arun Chaturvedi and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal also condoled his death.

Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh described Shekhawat as a "great visionary and parliamentarian".

Another Union Minister Farooq Abdullah recalled the "great services" rendered by Shekhawat to the nation for decades and described him as a "gentle person".

Former Union Minister Natwar Singh said Shekhawat was a popular leader with his roots in the village. Singh, who knew the former Vice President for the past 30 years, said he was an eminent and distinguished figure who rendered services of the highest quality.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said Shekhawat was a popular leader on good terms with leaders of all parties and announced state mourning for two days as a mark of respect to the departed leader. Deputy Chief Minister S K Modi and state health minister N K Yadav, besides state BJP chief C P Thakur also condoled his death.

RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi said, "We have lost a leader of great stature". PTI