A pall of gloom set in political circles of West Bengal as news of Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi’s death in Delhi reached Kolkata. Most senior leaders of Congress and Trinamool fondly remembered the days when they began their political career under the stewardship of Dasmunsi, who had been bedridden following a cardiac arrest and paralysis on October 12, 2008.
“It is a sad day for all of us. I am deeply saddened by the death of Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi. It is a great loss. May his soul rest in peace. He was a popular leader, a stalwart in politics. He was bedridden for so many years and he passed away today,” said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at state secretariat (Nabanna). The West Bengal government declared a half day for all government offices. An official said Dasmunsi’s body would be brought to Kolkata on Monday night and would be cremated with state honours if his family permitted. State education minister Partha Chatterjee said the state assembly would terminate by noon on Tuesday to allow members to pay last respects to the departed leader.
I am deeply saddened by the death of Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi. It is a great loss. May his soul rest in peace pic.twitter.com/YLyeFaBYm9
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) November 20, 2017
“I feel like I have become fatherless once again. He was my friend, philosopher and guide. In political or personal matters, I used to seek his guidance on almost everything,” said Subrata Mukherjee, the senior-most minister in Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet. Mukherjee was one of the closest to Dasmunsi – their association dates back to 1966-67. “I had just passed from Bangabashi College and entered Calcutta University where Priya da was my senior. We were together in Chattra Parishad (Congress’s student wing). We have seen the days of United Front government and the Naxal period when there was a lot of political upheavals. While we stayed on the first floor of Mahajati Sadan, Priya Da used to even cook for us frequently,” he said.
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Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury said Dasmunsi was like an elder brother and guide to all. “Apart from being a politician, he was like an elder brother and guide to us all,” he said. For Somen Mitra, former state Congress president, it was Dasmunshi who got him a nomination from Sealdah constituency for the first time. “I got elected as an MLA from Sealdah for the first time in 1972. I would not have got the nomination unless ‘Priyo’ forced for it. He always encouraged young leaders. From 1972 to 1977, when Congress was in power in West Bengal, the party had 83 MLAs in Bengal assembly who were below 30 years of age,” Mitra said.
Shri Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi was a popular leader with rich political and administrative experience. He did notable work to popularise football in India. Saddened by his demise. My thoughts are with Deepa Dasmunsi ji and family as well as his supporters.
One of the best-known speakers from Bengal, Dasmunsi was the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Minister of Information and Broadcasting during the first term of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Dasmunsi made his Parliament debut in 1971 and for two years he helmed the Indian Youth Congress. In 1985, he was made MoS of commerce. Dasmunsi was an avid football enthusiast and served as the president of All India Football Federation for almost two decades.
“Dasmunsi was a master of the art of cultivating personal relationships even with political opponents. His death brings an end to an era of data-based and logic-based debates,” said CPI(M) MP and politburo member Mohammad Salim. Incidentally, Salim is now the MP from Raiganj, the constituency in north Bengal where Priya Dasmunsi was elected in 1999 and 2004. Salim admitted that many residents of Raiganj were still fond of him.
Congress’ Abdul Mannan, the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, said, “We are devastated. I learnt the ropes of politics from him and he helped me become what I am,” he said. Cabinet minister Sovondeb Chattopadhyay said it was Dasmunshi who initiated him in politics. “Holding Priya Das’s hand I entered politics. It is a sad day for all of us who are now veterans. He had his cultural side and used to take out a newspaper called ‘Dakshini Varta’. I used to write there regularly,” said Chattopadhyay.
For Congress Rajya Sabha MP and former Bengal Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya, Dasmunshi was also the party’s “crisis manager”. “Whenever the party was in some crisis, he took us out from it. He was such a powerful speaker that the audience would believe whatever he said. I feel great pain today. He was fond of theatre and it was there that he met with Deepa (a theatre artist) and they both decided to marry,” said Bhattacharya. Dasmunsi was married to Deepa in 1994. They have a son Priyadeep.