KOLKATA: Veteran Congress leader and former information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi breathed his last at Apollo Hospital in New Delhi at around 12.10 pm on Monday. He was in coma for the past nine years after suffering a massive heart attack leading to paralysis on October 12, 2008. Dasmunsi was aged 72.
Dasmunsi is survived by his wife and former Union minister of state for urban development Deepa Dasmunsi and son Michil.
Dasmunsi was first admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and later shifted to Apollo. Apollo Hospital issued a statement stating that Dasmunsi was critically ill for the past one month. He remained on life support and underwent stem cell therapy at Dusseldorf in Germany in November 2009.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi expressed condolences and remembered Dasmunsi as one of the tallest political activists in West Bengal. She said that the immense work of Dasmunsi would be remembered for posterity and remained popular in the imagination of his people despite his prolonged illness.
Trinamool Congress ministers in West Bengal recalled their association with Dasmunsi whom they termed their political mentor. “He was my mentor. We stayed strong during the Naxalite movement of the 1970s and later fought against the CPM rule in the state. His absence can never be fulfilled. His death is a great loss to the politics of West Bengal,” panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said.
Power minister Sovandev Chatterjee said that he came into politics holding the hands of Dasmunsi and hailed him as a great organiser.
Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya said that Dasmunsi had nerves of steel and steered the party out of critical situations both in Centre and West Bengal. “He knew how to maintain relations and friendship. The day he suffered cardiac arrest, Congress started witnessing downfall in West Bengal. Besides politics, he was a drama and literature enthusiast,” he said.
Senior CPM leader and present Raiganj MP Md Salim said Dasmunsi build up Congress organisation in the state without issuing threats as witnessed in contemporary Bengal politics.
Beginning his career as Youth Congress state president in 1970, Dasmunsi went on to win Lok Sabha elections from Kolkata South constituency the next year in 1971 and won the Howrah Lok Sabha constituency in 1984 which he held on till 1991 and won the same constituency again in 1996. He won from Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency in North Bengal in 1999 which he held on to till 2008. He was responsible for strengthening the party’s organisational strength throughout West Bengal. He was known as an ardent critique of communists. Besides, he was the president of All India Football Federation for almost 20 years.