Former Maharashtra chief minister and Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, known for his political savvy and charm offensive in the face of crisis and controversy, died of multiple organ failure at the Global Health City hospital at Chennai on Tuesday afternoon. He was 67.
His death leaves a leadership void in the state Congress as he was seen as one of the key leaders who could have helped the party retain power both in the state and at the Centre in the 2014 elections.
The death came due to progression of disease, one of the doctors attending to Deshmukh said. Doctors had been preparing for a liver transplant , but a matching liver had been difficult to come by.
When the Tamil Nadu authorities finally managed to get one - of a driver involved in an accident and declared brain dead - it was too late.
Deshmukh passed away before the cadaver's organs could be harvested, sources said.
"Since last night his condition deteriorated fast, his blood pressure came down and the oxygen intake decreased. Finally, his heart stopped and he passed away at 1.40pm," chairman of Global Hospitals, K Ravindranath, said.
Deshmukh's liver ailment was detected about a year ago. On August 6, he was flown to Chennai as his health worsened.
Prof Mohammad Rela, director, Institute of Liver Surgery and Transplantation, Global Health, said Deshmukh's sons had been ready to donate a part of their livers, but it was decided to receive a whole organ from a cadaver, rather than a part of an organ from a living donor as a whole organ aids recovery faster.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi called Deshmukh's passing "a great loss to the party."
Deshmukh, who started his political career as sarpanch of Babhalgaon, was CM for eight years.
He first took over the reins of the state in 1999 and was replaced by Sushilkumar Shinde in November 2003.
He returned as CM after the 2004 Assembly polls but was forced to quit after the 26/11 attacks in the wake of his alleged terror tourism at the Taj.
He was made Union minister after the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and had been part of the Union Cabinet since.
Known for his deft handling of the often-uneasy Congress-NCP alliance, Deshmukh had, in the past one decade, emerged as a mobiliser of resources for his party.
He came up with the ambitious Rs. 43,000-crore Mumbai makeover plan to rebuild the city's crumbling infrastructure.
Equally a man of controversy, Deshmukh faced indictment from the courts twice: over the allotment of a Mumbai plot to a film institute and for interference from the CM's office in a probe into a farmer's suicide (the case involved a moneylender relative of a Congress MLA).
Deshmukh's funeral will be held at his native village, Babhalgaon, approximately 480 km from Mumbai, on Wednesday, his brother Dilip Deshmukh said.