Punjab Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Brigadier Jagdish Gagneja (retd), who was battling for life after being shot by two motorcycle-borne assailants in Jalandhar on August 6, died of multiple organ failure at Ludhiana’s Hero DMC Heart Institute on Thursday morning. He was 68.
As the prant sah sanghchalak or state vice-president of the RSS, Gagneja was the key link between the BJP and the Sangh in Punjab. A confidant of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who also visited him in the hospital recently, Gagneja kept a low profile and declined security. He was the oversight for the BJP’s plans in poll-bound Punjab. He became an RSS pracharak before joining the army, which he served for 40 years, and returned to the Hindu right-wing organisation’s fold as “sanghchalak” in Jalandhar in 2003. He became the second-in-command of the Punjab RSS after state president Brij Bhushan Bedi five years ago.
Doctors said Gagneja’s condition worsened on Wednesday night. He was declared dead at 9.16am after cardiovascular collapse.
The RSS leader was on life support ever since he was brought to Ludhiana. His small intestine was damaged at five places and the large intestine at three points. A bullet was still stuck in the liver. The post-mortem was conducted amid tight security.
Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore, who was in Ludhiana, laid a wreath. RSS and BJP workers paid tributes amid slogans of ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ and ‘Vande mataram’. There was resentment among them over the police failure to arrest the attackers.
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal paid tributes to Gagneja and met his family members. He was accompanied by local Akali leaders, including Adampur MLA Pawan Kumar Tinu and Sarabjit Singh Makkar.
Punjab BJP chief Vijay Sampla, Rajya Sabha MP Shwait Malik, state health minister Surjit Kumar Jyani, local bodies minister Anil Joshi, former state cabinet minister Tikshan Sood, Jalandhar central BJP MLA Manoranjan Kalia were also present.
Congress MP Santokh Chaudhary, district congress chief (urban) Rajinder Beri, Awaaz-e-Punjab leader and MLA Pargat Singh and Amritsar East MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu paid tributes to Gagneja.
A local RSS leader read out the message of sangh general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi before the funeral. Gagneja’s son, Colonel Rahul Gagneja, performed the last rites.
Later, Sukhbir told reporters that the probe had been handed over to the CBI as the role of a foreign hand with the aim of creating disturbance in Punjab was suspected. Sukhbir said he will meet union home minister Rajnath Singh to expedite the probe.