Senior BJP leader and former union minister Jayawantiben Mehta passed away after a brief illness at her South Mumbai residence on Monday. Thousands including political leaders across party lines, and central and state ministers, bid a tearful farewell at the funeral at Shivaji Park crematorium late evening in Mumbai.
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Tributes poured across the country and from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis. The fiery leader who had earned the nickname —Bhuleshwar’s Bhawani — had served as a Union minister of state in the Atal Bihari Vajpyee government in 1999. What was most notable about her was her ever smiling face and her approachable nature. Party workers always had easy access to her.
Mehta’s political journey began as a corporator with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation where she served for 10 years. This was followed by her two tenures as MLA and three terms as MP. She had defeated Congress stalwart Murli Deora from South Mumbai Lok Sabha constituency. In 2004, however, she was defeated by a young Milind Deora, son of Murli Deora, from Mumbai South constituency.
After the 2009 defeat in Parliamentary elections, she decided to step out of the electoral politics but continued to play a significant role in the organisation. In 1975, during Emergency, Mehta was imprisoned for 19 months. In 1980, she became a member of the BJP national executive and was made the party’s secretary in 1988. She was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1989, and reelected in 1996 and 1999. She represented the Mumbai North East constituency in the 9th Lok Sabha in 1989 and Mumbai South in 1996 and 1999.
As president of the BJP Mahila Morcha (1991-95), she had been an inspiring figure for women workers. Mehta was also the vice-president of the party. Fadnavis and Union Minister for Surface Transport Nitin Gadkari offered tribute to Mehta at her residence early in the day. Fadnavis said, “Jayawantiben was our leader whose hard work and contribution to growth of the political organisation in the state and country will always be remembered. She was an inspiration to lakhs of karyakartas. Her excellent oratory skills and hard work would always be remembered.”
PM Modi tweeted, “Saddened by the passing away of Jayawantiben Mehta. We remember her rich contribution to the nation. Condolences to her family.” Several senior ministers who paid condolences included Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu among others.
Earlier, at the funeral, Union Minister for Power Piyush Goyal recalled his long association with Mehta and her guidance. NCP president Sharad Pawar described her as a hard and fiery leader. State BJP president Raosaheb Danve, Education Minister Vinod Tawde and Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar also paid tributes to her. Almost six years ago, Mehta had written an autobiography titled ‘Marching With Time’.