The former Vice-President and three-time Chief Minister of Rajasthan in the past, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat died here on Saturday following cardiac arrest. Mr. Shekhawat, who was admitted to the Sawai Man Singh Hospital on Thursday with difficulty in breathing following a lung infection, breathed his last at 11.10 a.m.

Mr. Shekhawat, who often set the political agenda in the State for half a century and headed the first non-Congress government in Rajasthan in 1977, was 86 at the time of his death.

After the completion of his tenure as the 11th Vice-President (August 2002-July 2007), he had been mostly shuttling between Delhi and Jaipur.

For the past two years or so, Mr. Shekhawat had been keeping indifferent health though that did not deter him from touring, addressing public meetings and keeping in touch with the latest developments both in the country and in the home State.

He leaves behind his wife Suraj Kanwar, daughter Rattan Kanwar, the son-in-law, former Minister Narpat Singh Rajvi, and three grandchildren, Mumal, Vikramaditya and Abhimanyu.

An emergency meeting of the Rajasthan Cabinet, presided over by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, condoled the death. Mr. Gehlot had visited SMS Hospital early in the morning to enquire about Mr. Shekhawat's health. On learning about the death, he visited the hospital again.

Mr. Gehlot termed Mr. Shekhawat a leader who had “immense understanding of Rajasthan, its people and a person who strove to improve the lot of the common man.”

The State announced a three-day official mourning. A resolution passed by the Cabinet termed Mr. Shekahwat a distinguished leader who had left a deep impression in the social and political spheres of the State. “With his passing away the State has lost an able administrator, scholar, effective public speaker and a visionary leader. His death is a loss to the State as well as the country,” it said.

The funeral is slated to be held with state honours at the Chandpole cremation ground here on Sunday. Vice-President Hamid Ansari, former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, senior BJP leaders including L.K. Advani, Rajanth Singh, party president Nitin Gadkari and the Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled States are expected to attend.

Mr. Shekhawat, born in a farmer's family in Kachariawas village of Sikar district in the semi-arid Shekhawati region on October 23, 1923, could not complete his college studies due to family constraints but he had kept the quest for learning alive throughout life.

He first entered the Rajasthan Assembly as an MLA from Sikar district's Datta Ramgarh in 1952 and thereafter continued to be its member till 2002 except for the period between 1974 and 1977 — when he was a Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh — and for two years from 1972 to 1974 after losing the election in the fifth Assembly. He was Chief Minister from 1977 to 1980, 1990 to 1992 and from 1993 to 1998.