Goa Tourism Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Matanhy Saldanha, known more as a social and environmental activist, died of cardiac arrest here on Wednesday afternoon. He was 64, and is survived by his wife Alina Sousa e Saldanha.

He was Tourism Minister in the erstwhile Manohar Parrikar-led BJP coalition government also, having been elected to the Assembly on United Goans Democratic Party ticket for the first time in 2002.

Mr. Saldanha, who held the Forest and Environment portfolios, was very vocal in his views on damage to Goa's environment and forests caused by unbridled mining.

Mr. Saldanha, who joined the BJP ahead of the recent Assembly elections, got elected from his home constituency, Cortalim in south Goa. He was sworn in as Minister in the BJP-led coalition government on March 9. Following his death, the Speaker adjourned the proceedings of the Assembly till Monday, when the budget will be presented. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was to have presented it on Wednesday. The State government declared State mourning for three days and a public holiday on Wednesday.

Mr. Saldanha, in his long social life, had participated in several agitations: against polluting mega-industries, in the traditional fishermen's struggle against mechanised fishing, for diversion of the Konkan Railway route away from coast and through the State's hinterland and, in the recent past, against Special Economic Zones in Goa compelling the Congress government to scrap the projects. Goa's identity and land and Konkani language were some of his obsessions.

A school teacher by profession, Mr. Saldanha was also the founder and chairman of the National Fishworkers' Forum, general secretary of Goenchea Ramponkarancho Ekvott and member of the International Collective of Fish Workers. He was associated with several other activist organisations.

“Matanhy Saldanha was a path-breaker, a man with principles and a true honest Goan with traditional values. His death is a major loss to the State and personal loss to me,” said the Chief Minister. Mr. Saldanha was a leader of the masses in the true sense of the term. He was the beacon of weaker sections who looked up to him as a saviour to mitigate their sufferings, the Chief Minister said.

A condolence meeting was held at the BJP headquarters in the city, where Mr. Parrikar, paid floral homage.

Mr. Saldanha is considered one of the close associates of Mr. Parrikar who helped the latter implement his recent successful “BJP Goa Model,” social engineering formula of reaching out to Catholics, dominant minority of the State, in the party's return to power.

The funeral will be held on Saturday at 3 p.m. at his native village of Cansaulim.