Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister and long-time BJP leader Ananth Kumar died at a private hospital in Bengaluru in the early hours of Monday after battling lung cancer for several months. He was 59.
The Bangalore South MP, who returned home in October after undergoing treatment in the US and Britain, breathed his last around 2 am with his wife Tejaswini and two daughters by his side, B R Nagaraj, chairperson of the board of trustees of Sri Shankara Cancer Foundation, told PTI.
The Union minister, who passed away from complications following cancer and infection, had been on the ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit for the last few days, his office said in a statement.
His mortal remains will be kept at his residence here the entire day Monday and the last rites will be performed Tuesday, the Karnataka unit of the BJP said.
The body will be taken to the state BJP office and the National College ground, which falls in his constituency, before the funeral at Chamarajapete crematorium, it said.
The national flag will fly at half mast throughout the country on Monday as a mark of respect to Kumar, the Home Ministry announced in Delhi.
The Karnataka government has declared three-day state mourning and a holiday on Monday as a mark of respect to the leader, a staunch RSS idealogue who was the first person to speak in Kannada in the United Nations.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and leaders across the political spectrum condoled the death of the death of the six-time parliamentarian. Expressing his condolences, President Kovind said, “This is a tragic loss to public life in our country and particularly for the people of Karnataka. My condolences to his family, colleagues and countless associates.”
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu described Kumar as a “colleague for years together, from students’ movement to Parliament” and hailed him as a “dedicated statesman”. The prime minister said he was extremely saddened by the passing away of a “valued colleague and friend” and described him as a remarkable leader, who entered public life at a young age and went on to serve society with utmost diligence and compassion.
“Ananth Kumar Ji was an able administrator, who handled many ministerial portfolios and was a great asset to the BJP organisation. He worked hard to strengthen the party in Karnataka, particularly in Bengaluru and surrounding areas,” Modi said in a tweet.
He said he had spoken to Kumar’s wife to express condolences.
“My thoughts are with his entire family, friends and supporters in this hour of grief and sadness. Om Shanti,” he said.
“I’m sorry to hear about the passing of Union Minister, Shri Ananth Kumar ji, in Bengaluru, earlier this morning. My condolences to his family & friends. May his soul rest in peace. Om Shanti,” Congress chief Gandhi said in his message.
Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy described Kumar as a “value based” politician who made significant contribution to the country as a parliamentarian and a union minister.
“Kumar’s pro-people attitude and activities made him apple of the eye of Bengalurians,” Kumaraswamy said.
Kumar steadily climbed up the political ladder, beginning as an RSS worker to becoming a Union minister when he was only in his 30s. He enjoyed the credit of being the “youngest” minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet in 1998.
He remained in the inner circle of the central leadership of the BJP — be it during the heyday of Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Narendra Modi now. Kumar first got elected to Lok Sabha in 1996 from Bangalore South, the constituency which remained his bastion till his death.
He joined the BJP in 1987 and never looked back, holding the posts of state secretary, state president of the Yuva Morcha, party general secretary and national secretary.
Along with state BJP chief Yeddyurappa, Kumar is among the few party leaders who can be credited for the growth of the BJP in Karnataka, bringing it to power in 2008 and making it the first saffron party government in the South.
Senior BJP leader R Ashoka said Home Minister Rajnath Singh has confirmed that he would be in the city to pay his last respects but the party was yet to receive any intimation about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit.