Veteran Congress leader and former union minister, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who was in a coma since 2008, passed away on Monday. West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury confirmed the news to The Indian Express.
“He died at 12.10 p.m. today (Monday). He had been critically ill for the past one month and unfortunately succumbed to his illness,” said Apollo Hospital in a statement.
Dasmunsi, who was Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister, suffered a massive stroke in 2008 which left him paralysed and unable to speak. Blood supply to a part of his brain was cut off causing irreversible damage. His body systems were functional but he breathed through a tracheostomy tube attached to his neck and was fed through a PEG tube in his stomach. All basic life functions like breathing, blood pressure, sleep-awake cycle were stable but he was not conscious of his surroundings.
He is survived by his wife Deepa Dasmunsi and son Priyadeep Dasmuni. His body will be taken to the Congress headquarters in New Delhi, where top party leaders including its vice-president Rahul Gandhi will pay their homage.
In her condolence message, Congress president Sonia Gandhi described Dasmunsi as a “devout” political activist and “one of the tallest” leaders of West Bengal. She said Dasmunsi served the party and government “illustriously”.
“His work at the immense work at the grassroots would be remembered for posterity,” she said.
Despite his prolonged illness, he remained popular among his people. “His death is an irreparable loss to the Congress party and the country,” she said.
Dasmunsi represented Raiganj (Lok Sabha constituency) in West Bengal before being succeeded by his wife Deepa. The 72-year-old leader had begun his political career with the Indian Youth Congress before entering the Parliament in 1971.
He was first sworn in as Union Minister in 1985. Dasmunsi also served as the President of All India Football Federation for close to 20 years.
Dasmunsi’s popularity among Congress supporters was such that his name was included in the 90-member campaign committee for the West Bengal assembly elections in 2016.
C P Joshi, the Congress general secretary in charge of West Bengal, had justified the inclusion of Dasmunsi’s name. “There are 60-70 names in the campaign committee. He (Dasmunsi) is not chairman of the committee. He is a Congress leader, he has goodwill…what is wrong in including his name and using his goodwill in the campaign?” Joshi had told The Indian Express.
Joshi also had said it was meant as a message to Congress workers on the ground that the party recognises the leader. “Everyone on the campaign committee does not necessarily campaign or speak,” he said, adding that the campaigners will use Dasmunsi’s goodwill among the people.