Before leaving for the US where he died after losing a prolonged battle with cancer on Wednesday, Uttarakhand Cabinet Minister Prakash Pant (58) had told Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat that he would definitely come back.
Recounting his memories with the late Minister, Rawat said through a video message on Thursday that Pant was diagnosed with "aggressive cancer" soon after he fainted in the Vidhan Sabha while presenting the 2019-20 state budget in February.
The Chief Minister said that doctors at the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre in New Delhi had said that Pant was inflicted with a "rare" type of cancer and that "things were out of control."
Pant was then advised to go to the US for treatment, Rawat said.
"I visited the hospital in the US to see him (Pant). I stayed with him till late in the night. When I was returning, he had told me that he will definitely come back," said Rawat, as he broke down.
"But fate was different", he said in a choked voice.
The Chief Minister said that Pant became the Speaker of the first interim state Assembly at a young age of 40, soon after Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh on November 9, 2000.
"Our relationship goes back over 30 years. When talks began as to who should be the Speaker, I suggested to Murli Manohar Joshi Ji (the then HRD Minister) that Prakash Pant should be the Speaker," Rawat said.
Meanwhile, the state government on Thursday declared a public holiday in the memory of Pant, who had held the portfolios of finance, excise, and parliamentary affairs in the state Cabinet where he was No. 2 behind the Chief Minister.
Before leaving for the US last month, Pant had handed over all the portfolios to the Chief Minister. Pant is survived by his wife, one son and two daughters.
A government spokesman said the body of Pant is expected to reach Uttarakhand in one or two days. A three-day state mourning is also being observed in the state.
In a separate message, Rawat said he had lost a younger brother as he described Pant as a dynamic leader.
State BJP President Ajay Bhatt also condoled the death of Pant and said that all the programmes of the party in the state would remain suspended for three days.