Jaipur: Former vice president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat died on Saturday of cardiac arrest, two days after he was admitted to a hospital here complaining of uneasiness and breathing problems.
87-year old Shekhawat breathed his last at 11:10 am at the Swai Man Singh Hospital, Dr Narpat Singh, superintendent of the hospital, said.
He leaves behind his wife Suraj Kanwar and daughter Ratan Kanwar, who is married to BJP MLA Narpat Singh Rajvi, and three grandchildren.
The former vice president was admitted to the ICU of the SMS hospital on the night of 13 May following complaints of lung and chest infection. When his condition deteriorated on Saturday morning, he was put on ventilator, another doctor at the hospital, Ashok Pangaria, told PTI.
The Rajasthan Cabinet held an emergency meeting to mourn his death and declared a three-day state mourning.
The funeral will take place here on Sunday with full state honours.
Shekhawat’s embalmed body will be kept at his bungalow in the civil lines area in Jaipur to enable people to pay their last respects. The body will later be taken to the BJP office before cremation at Chandpol ground.
As news of his death spread, leaders transcending political barriers rushed to his residence to pay their tributes.
Respected as a deft politician, Shekhawat enjoyed the enviable reputation of ‘Ajatshatru’ -- for having friends across the political spectrum in his over five decades-long political career.
“Age is no bar for me”, Shekhawat had said when he was vice president and had climbed the Eiffel Tower at the age of 83. The remark was significant and gave a clear indication that he would run for the presidentship of India, the election for which was due in 2007 even though the odds were clearly against him. Shekhawat eventually lost the presidential race to Pratibha Patil.
Born on 23 October 1923, in Khachariyawas, a small village in Sikar district of the desert state, he was sworn-in as the country’s 12th vice president on 19 August 2002.
Shekhawat was the only member of the Rajasthan Assembly to have won in every assembly election since 1952, except in 1972 when he lost from Gandhi Nagar in Jaipur. He was also elected to the Rajya Sabha from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh in 1974.
He enjoyed the distinction of heading three non-Congress governments in the state in 1977, 1990 and 1993.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari described Shekhawat’s demise as a national loss. “He was a guiding spirit and pillar of Bharatiya Janata Party. His contribution to the party and the nation will always be remembered,” Gadkari told PTI in Nagpur.