PRAMOD MAHAJAN DEAD
Pramod Mahajan, a master strategist, fundraiser and election manager of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who was shot by his youngest brother 12 days ago, succumbed to his multiple bullet wounds on Wednesday, plunging the country's main opposition party into an unforeseen crisis.
The 56-year-old politician, a member of the BJP's 'Gen Next' and one who many thought had the potential to lead the party, died of complications developed in the last four days at the PD Hinduja Hospital where a team of surgeons battled to save him since the near fatal shooting on April 22.
That Saturday morning, Pravin Mahajan, 46, walked into the two-bedroom flat of his famous brother at Purna Godavari Apartments in south Mumbai's Worli area and pumped three bullets into Pramod Mahajan from close range from a .32 Belgian pistol in a fit of rage.
He later calmly told the police that he had shot the BJP general secretary to avenge his frequent humiliation. Police said Pravin failed to empty all the nine bullets because the fourth one got jammed - and thus Pramod Mahajan survived for 12 days.
His condition deteriorated suddenly on Tuesday evening. By Wednesday morning it became evident that he was sinking, and hundreds of people started to gather at the Hinduja Hospital.
As family members gathered in the intensive care unit, the first sign that he had died came when the BJP lowered its flag at its national headquarters in New Delhi.
Shortly before 5 pm, Pramod Lele, chief executive officer of the hospital, said: "It is with deep regret that we announce the death of Pramod Mahajan. We tried our level best to save him but god had willed otherwise."
The surgeons failed to overcome the multiple damage caused by the bullets that penetrated the diaphragm (the muscle critical for breathing), liver, kidneys and pancreas, causing extensive internal injuries.
GB Daver, the surgeon who was heading the team of doctors treating Pramod Mahajan, said: "He has been suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome for the last few days and that caused the demise."
Family sources said the father of two, who came from a humble Maharashtrian family before slowly rising in the ranks of the Hindu right wing to become one of the best known faces of the BJP, would be cremated Thursday in Mumbai at Shivaji Park.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi - whom Pramod had denounced many a time as a "foreigner" - joined BJP leaders and others across the political spectrum to express shock and offer their condolences.
The sense of loss was palpable in the BJP, where the suave and media savvy Mahajan was widely seen as its most promising leader after its two stars, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy LK Advani.
"It's a big blow to the party. Pramod Mahajan was important for the BJP," admitted Ravi Shankar Prasad, a former central minister. "He was like an elder brother to a whole generation of young party activists."
Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha added that Mahajan's death was a great blow. "There were very few leaders of his dynamism, energy and of his presence."
Born in 1949, Mahajan joined the RSS in the early 1970s and worked largely in rural Maharashtra. In 1979, he was in the select batch of RSS activists co-opted to the BJP to work on the political front. He had not looked back after that.
Besides being an MP, he was a former cabinet minister, a confidant of both top leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani at different points of time, and one with close links with India Inc and politicians cutting across the political spectrum. He was both loathed and envied for that.
Among the front-ranking leaders of the BJP, Mahajan was the ultimate master strategist and one of its key fundraisers. He was the architect of the campaign in the 2004 general elections that the BJP lost badly.
But unlike many of his colleagues, Mahajan admitted his role in the rout and vowed to rebuild the BJP.
Mahajan was engaged in that effort when his brother shot him - killing a man who may have helped the BJP, now facing an identity crisis, to bounce back.