Senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and general secretary of the state unit, Gurunath Kulkarni passed away after a prolonged illness on Wednesday.
Kulkarni, 71, died of multiple organ failure at Kokilaben Ambani hospital in Andheri. He is survived by wife and daughter, a doctor settled in the US. He was suffering from heart ailment and diabetes and was put on life support systems in the hospital for a fortnight.
Kulkarni, a lawyer, practised at the Bombay high court before he joined the Congress. He was with union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar when he split from the Congress to set up the NCP in 1999.
He was the party’s MLC for about eight years and considered to be an able administrator and organiser.
‘Guruji’ as he was known in political and media circles was always present in the party office and contributed significantly in party administration. Known for his candid quotes, Kulkarni was a favourite with the media.
“Kulkarni was one my strongest supporters in my political career. In the event of an internal crisis in the party, he stood by my side. To lose such a companion is indeed sad,’’ said Pawar.
His statement read: “In his work till the very last, Kulkarni displayed unselfishness, sound legal knowledge and organisational discipline. He never made selfish demands but always spoke for what was right for the party.”
Hailing from Konkan, he was NCP’s foremost leader from the region and the first to challenge Narayan Rane’s dominion.
“It’s a huge loss for the party. He would single-handedly handle the party office,’’ said colleague and public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal.
His body will be kept in the NCP state headquarters at Nariman Point on Thursday from 11am to noon so that party workers can pay homage. The last rites will be performed at Dadar crematorium.hours to reach the city.