Makhan Lal Fotedar, a veteran Congress leader who was a close confidante of former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, died today at the age of 85. He died at 1.30 pm at Medanta hospital in Gurugram, on the outskirts of Delhi.
Medical Superintendent of the hospital Dr A K Dubey said Fotedar was suffering from diabetes, hypertension and respiratory infection and had been admitted on June 20. He was being attended by a team of doctors from various departments, Dubey added.
Hailing from Kashmir, Fotedar was ushered into politics by Jawaharlal Nehru in early 1950s and he gradually strengthened his position in the Congress to become one of the most powerful persons in the party. He enjoyed immense trust of Indira Gandhi who had made him her political secretary in 1980. After her death, Rajiv Gandhi also made him his political secretary for three years, before inducting him in his Cabinet as a minister.
Fotedar also was a member of the powerful Congress Working Committee (CW), the highest decision-making body of the party, for a long time. Even now, he was a permanent invitee to the CWC.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, while expressing her condolences on his demise, said, "in his long and active political career spanning over five decades, he tirelessly fought for the rights of people and served them with utmost integrity." She said Fotedar was "one of the guiding lights for the Congress party and has left behind a void which can never be filled."
In his message, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said, "Fotedar ji was a pillar of strength in the Congress party. His demise is a big loss to us. My condolences to his family in this hour of grief."
Fotedar was a former member of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly and represented the Pahalgam constituency from 1967 to 1977. He was a two-time Rajya Sabha member and a former union minister.