Former BJP president Bangaru Laxman. photo: Mint
Former BJP president Bangaru Laxman. photo: Mint

Former BJP president Bangaru Laxman dies in political wilderness

The first dalit to head the BJP who had to make an ignominious exit, dies of heart attack at 74

Hyderabad: Bangaru Laxman, the first dalit leader to head the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who had to make an ignominious exit after being caught on camera taking bribe of 1 lakh to push a fictitious defence deal, died on Saturday aged 74.

Laxman, who was ailing for some time, suffered a fatal heart attack at a private hospital in the evening. He is survived by his wife, Susheela Laxman, who was a BJP member of Parliament (MP) of the 14th Lok Sabha, three daughters and a son.

Bangaru Laxman was elected to the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council in 1985, before entering the Rajya Sabha in April 1996. In October 1999, he was inducted into the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee as minister of state for planning and programme implementation and was later appointed minister of state in the Railway Ministry.

Laxman occupied the top post in the BJP from 2000 to 2001.

His promising political career was cut short after he was caught accepting a bribe of 1 lakh from a purported arms dealer in a sting operation by Tehelka for pushing a fictitious defence deal for award of a contract for acquisition of thermal binoculors for the Army.

The episode also marked the advent of sting journalism in the country. He was convicted by a CBI court in April 2012 and sentenced to four years imprisonment. He was currently on bail. Laxman was living in political wilderness after his unceremonious exit as BJP president following the bribery scandal.

He had joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh when 12 and worked his way to the top of the party after joining Jan Sangh in 1969.

He was president of the All India BJP Scheduled Caste Morcha for seven years and also national vice-president of the BJP.

Earlier, he was secretary of the Andhra Pradesh unit of the Bharatiya Janasangh between 1973 and 1977 and secretary of the Janata Party’s Andhra Pradesh unit in 1978 before becoming convenor of the state unit of the newly-formed BJP in 1980.

He was its general secretary between 1980 and 1985 and president between 1986 and 1988. Laxman was imprisoned for about a year and half during Emergency.

BJP president Rajnath Singh and some other party leaders condoled Laxman’s death.