Former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar who held center-stage of Indian politics for almost four decades with his unflinching commitment to socialism and strong distaste for personality politics passed away at a New Delhi hospital on Sunday morning.
The only Indian elevated as Prime Minister without having previously held an official post, 80-year-old Chandra Shekhar died after battling “multiple mycloma” (cancer of plasma cell) for three months. Two sons survive him.
He will be cremated with full state honors on Monday at 1600 hours near the “samadhi” of former Presidents Giani Zail Singh, SD Sharma and KR Narayanan. The Union government has declared a seven-day mourning. The national flag will fly at half mast during the mourning period and central government establishments will remain closed from 1300 hours tomorrow, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi informed after a special meeting of the union cabinet.
President APJ Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Ministers AB Vajpayee and VP Singh and Left leaders Prakash Karath and Sitaram Yechuri apart from scores of others including Godman Chandraswamy arrived this morning at Chandrashekhar’s official residence at South Avenue Lane to pay their last respects to the departed leader who was known for his fearless articulation of the goal to establish an egalitarian order.
During the course of his tumultuous but distinguished career, Chandrashekhar often ruffled political feathers and took the courage to defy former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during his days in the Congress and earned the sobriquet of a “young turk”. But he maintained friends across parties and ideologies. He was never ashamed of admitting his association with former “coal king” Surajdev Singh or controversial Godman Chandraswamy.
“A truly secular nationalist who was committed to people’s welfare and national development”, is what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to say about Chandrashekhar a disciple of Acharya Narendra Dev and eight times MP from Ballia.
With Chandra Shekhar's death, the country has lost a leader who knew the pulse of the masses and was a strong pillar of Indian democracy, said JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav – an old associate who sometimes had disagreements and clashes with the late leader.
Former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee described him as a “friend of friends who lived in politics on his own terms and had a natural tendency to raise his voice against injustice.
Ex-socialist George Fernandes described Chandrashekhar as a great son of India, outstanding socialist and great parliamentarian.