Noted socialist leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker Rabi Ray passed away on Monday at the SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack following prolonged illness. Ray was 91 and is survived by his doctor wife, Saraswati Swain. He was hospitalised on February 12. Born at Bhanragarh village of Khurda district on November 26, 1926, Ray shot into the limelight in 1946-47 when he was arrested along with others for lowering the Union Jack and unfurling the Tricolour at the Ravenshaw College (now University), Cuttack.
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In 1960, he became the first general secretary of Socialist Party founded by Ram Manohar Lohia. The first Lok Sabha Speaker from Odisha, Ray was one of the closest associates of Ram Manohar Lohia and one of the founders of the Young Socialist League. Lohia’s visit to Odisha in 1948 and his advice to address the lowest of the lows touched Ray’s heart.
Following Socialist principles, he even refused to mention his caste in the examination form he had to fill at the Ravanshaw College. In 1967, he became the leader of the Socialist Party in Parliament. He also served in the Morarji Deasi Cabinet as the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare in January 1979.
However, his moment of glory came between 1989 and 1991 when he became Speaker of the 9th Lok Sabha, one of the most tumultuous periods of Indian politics. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik condoled Ray’s death and described him as a veteran socialist leader. Odisha government has declared one-day state mourning on Tuesday.