Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Assembly Speaker G. Karthikeyan died on Saturday at a hospital in Bengaluru where he was being treated for liver cancer, the Congress party said. He was 66 and is survived by his wife, a retired college professor, and two sons.
A six-time member of the assembly, Karthikeyan twice served as a minister.
"I am cancelling all my programmes and am returning to the capital (Thiruvananthapuram)," a deeply upset Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters at Kochi, adding that he, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala and senior Congress leaders would leave for Bengaluru, where a few senior ministers and party leaders are already there in the hospital.
His body will be brought here by a special flight in the evening. The state Congress party is now making elaborate arrangements for his funeral.
Soft-spoken and mild-mannered, Karthikeyan rose through the ranks by first becoming the president of the Kerala Students' Union and then the Youth Congress.
A known confidante of late chief minister K. Karunakaran, he stood behind him in his crisis period in 1978 when leaders like A.K. Antony, Oommen Chandy and V.M. Sudheeran left the party.
But a few years later, Karthikeyan also parted company with Karunakaran and with Chennithala formed what was known as the third faction in the Congress party.
He fell ill in the middle of last year as was later diagnosed with liver cancer of the liver. Last October he sought expert treatment at Mayo Clinic in the US.
After his return, he maintained a low profile and did not attend the last session of the assembly in December.
In January, his condition improved and he was seen at a few functions in his home constituency located in the outskirts of the capital city.
His condition deteriorated last month and he was shifted to a hospital in Bengaluru, where he was battling for his life for the past few days.
The Kerala government has declared a holiday for all state government offices and educational institutions for Saturday afternoon and a seven-day mourning.
The State Congress party also declared a week of mourning when no official party engagements would be held, a party press release said.
Leader of opposition V.S. Achuthanandan described Karthikeyan as a very mature leader who gave a lot of respect to his political adversaries.