Union Minister for Food and Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan passed away on Thursday night due to prolonged heart ailment at the Fortis Escorts Hospital in New Delhi. He was 74. He had been admitted to the hospital for over a month.
Known as the weather vane of Indian politics, Mr. Paswan had worked as a Minister in Union governments under six Prime Ministers with governments of all colours — from the United Front government of Deve Gowda to the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government to the current Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government.
A stalwart of the socialist movement, who later emerged as Bihar’s foremost Dalit leader with a following across the country, Mr. Paswan was instrumental in the implementation of the Mandal Commission report in the 1990s.
“I am saddened beyond words. There is a void in our nation that will perhaps never be filled. Shri Ram Vilas Paswan ji’s demise is a personal loss. I have lost a friend, valued colleague and someone who was extremely passionate to ensure every poor person leads a life of dignity,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
“My deepest condolences on the passing away of Shri Ram Vilas Paswan. A towering personality, who stood with the cause of social justice and empowerment of the most marginalized, Shri Paswan will be forever remembered for asserting the cause of social and political equity," said Congress president Sonia Gandhi. "I remember his long association as an ally and as a competent and dynamic minister of the UPA.
"My thoughts are with his wife, Chirag and all the family members, friends and followers in this moment of loss and grief.”
Mr. Paswan broke away from the Janata Dal to form his own party, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), in 2000.
In November 2019, he handed over the reins of the party to his son Chirag, settling for a Rajya Sabha berth.
The MHA, in a statement, said that a State Funeral will be accorded. The national flag will be flown at half mast on October 9, 2020 in Delhi and capitals of all States and UTs where it is regularly flown, and also where the funeral takes place.
He was born in Saharbani village, block Alouli, in Khagria district of Bihar. The oldest of four children, his father was a farmer and no one from his family had been in politics. He strayed into politics at a time when anti-Congressism was just taking root in Bihar.
In 1969, after having cleared the examination for the post of Deputy Superintendent of Police in Bihar, he fought the Assembly polls on the Socialist Party’s ticket and managed to defeat Congress old-timer Mishri Saada by 700 votes. In 1977, he was elected to the Lok Sabha by a record margin, riding high on the anti-Emergency wave.