April 29, 2021 12:56:59 am
Former Mumbai Congress president, ex-state minister and the dalit face of the party in Maharashtra, Eknath Gaikwad died of Covid-19 here on Wednesday. The 81-year-old was undergoing treatment for the infection at a South Mumbai Hospital, where he had been admitted two weeks back.
A staunch loyalist of the Congress party, he was known to always be in the forefront championing the cause of dalits and other oppressed segments of the society. His association with Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Asia, was especially noteworthy; he had represented the constituency in the Maharashtra assembly thrice.
Gaikwad was a minister in the state government between 1993 and 2004 and held various portfolios such as labour, health, medical education and social justice.
In 2004, he moved to Delhi. He was elected as Lok Sabha member twice — from 2004 to 2009, and 2009 to 2014.
In 2017, he was appointed the Mumbai Congress president, a post he held till 2020.
A low-profile leader, Gaikwad rose in politics from the grassroots and was known for his staunch Ambedkarite values. His daughter Varsha Gaikwad is currently the school education minister in the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
Leaders across political parties offered condolences on Gaikwad’s death. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar said, “Saddened to hear the demise of Gaikwad. His service in social sector and work for dalits, poor and oppressed will always be remembered.”
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said, “We have lost a senior leader who strived for welfare of poor and needy. He made huge contribution through work in slums among the poor.”
Leader of the Opposition in state assembly, Devendra Fadnavis, said, “His commitment to dalits and poor was remarkable.”
Throughout his long political career, Gaikwad was known for staying away from controversy, and for his loyalties to the Congress High Command in Delhi – the Gandhi family.
Revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat said Gaikwad was known for his “silent work”. He said, “We have lost a senior and experienced Congress loyalist whose focus was always for welfare of deprived sections of the society.”
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