First won elections at 23, he held the record for highest winning margin
GN Bureau | October 9, 2020
Ram Vilas Paswan, who held the post of a cabinet minister in several union governments of various hues in the last three decades, is no more. A champion of the Dalit cause, he was “an eminent leader, a distinguished parliamentarian and an able administrator”, as the union cabinet noted in a resolution on Friday.
He had a heart surgery at the AIIMS, New Delhi, on Sunday. He breathed his last on Thursday evening.
Paswan was one of the most popular leaders from Bihar and enjoyed strong mass support. At the young age of 23, he was elected to the Bihar state legislative assembly in 1969 as a member of Samyukta Socialist Party. In the post-Emergency “Janata” wave, he was elected as a member of the 6th Lok Sabha from Hajipur constituency in 1977 by a record margin. He was re-elected to the 7th Lok Sabha in 1980 and 8th Lok Sabha in 1984. He was re-elected to 9th Lok Sabha in 1989 and was appointed as Union Minister for Labour and Welfare.
In 1996, he became Minister for Railways and continued to hold the post till 1998. Thereafter, he served as Minister for Communications from October, 1999 to September, 2001 when he was made Minister of Coal and Mines, the portfolio he held till April, 2002. After 2004 Lok Sabha Elections, Shri Paswan joined the United Progressive Alliance Government and was made Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers and Minister of Steel.
Paswan was elected to 16th Lok Sabha in 2014 and served as Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. In 2019, Shri Paswan was elected to Rajya Sabha and continued as Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
Paswan emerged as the first among the Dalit leaders of his generation, and enjoyed good rapport across party lines. During this long journey, he frequently shifted his political alliances, quitting the Janata experiment and launching his own outfit, Lok Janshakti Party, which has been part of BJP-led coalitions, Congress-led alliances as well as ‘Third Front’. In recent times, his son, Chirag Paswan, had taken over from him the mantle of the party leadership. Chirag now takes over the LJP at a time when the election campaign is on in Bihar, and his party is a crucial player.
Born on July 5, 1946 at Shaharbanni in Khagaria district of Bihar, Paswan was educated at Kosi College, Khagaria and Patna University, Patna. He obtained degrees in M.A. and LL.B. He was also conferred D.Litt. (Honoris Causa) by Bundelkhand University, Jhansi.
On Friday, the union cabinet expressed condolences on Paswan’s demise, and also observed silence for two minutes in his memory. It approved according state funeral for the departed leader, and passed the following resolution:
“The Cabinet expresses profound sorrow at the sad demise of Shri Ramvilas Paswan, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. In his passing away, the nation has lost an eminent leader, a distinguished parliamentarian and an able administrator. Shri Paswan was the voice of the oppressed and always championed the cause of marginalized sections of the society. The cabinet extends its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family on behalf of the Government and the entire nation.”
Piyush Goyal, meanwhile, will hold the charge of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, in addition to his existing portfolios.
Late on Thursday, president Ram Nath Kovind paid tributes to Paswan, calling him a visionary leader. “He was among the most active and longest-serving members of parliament. He was the voice of the oppressed, and championed the cause of the marginalized. A firebrand socialist in youth, mentored by the likes of Jayaprakash Narayan during anti-Emergency movement, Paswan ji had enviable rapport with masses and he ardently strove for their welfare,” the president said in a tweet message.
Prime minister Narendra Modi wrote, “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.
“Shri Ram Vilas Paswan Ji rose in politics through hardwork and determination. As a young leader, he resisted tyranny and the assault on our democracy during the Emergency. He was an outstanding Parliamentarian and Minister, making lasting contributions in several policy areas.
Working together, shoulder to shoulder with Paswan Ji has been an incredible experience. His interventions during Cabinet Meetings were insightful. From political wisdom, statesmanship to governance issues, he was brilliant.”
The president and the prime minister were among the many who went to Paswan’s 12, Janpath residence to pay last respects.
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