Veteran Congress leader Bali Ram Bhagat is dead, PM saddened

Sunday, January 2, 2011

NEW DELHI - Veteran politician and Congress leader Bali Ram Bhagat, who also served as the Lok Sabha speaker, died Sunday in a hospital here. He was 89.

His death has been widely condoled with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describing him a “close friend”.

Bhagat was admitted to the Apollo hospital and was being treated for kidney and liver ailments. He is survived by his wife Vidhya Bhagat, a son and a daughter.

Bhagat was elected speaker of the fifth Lok Sabha in 1976 when the country was under an emergency. He remained in the post for a year.

He was born Oct 7, 1922 in Patna, where he studied economics. He was also governor of Himachal Pradesh for a short period in 1993 and of Rajasthan from 1993 to 1998.

Bhagat joined the freedom struggle as a student when he was 17. After independence, he was elected to the first Lok Sabha. He was was a member of the Lok Sabha for seven terms, including five consecutive terms.

He served as parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance in the first Congress government and was made deputy finance minister in 1956, a responsibility which he held for seven years.

He also served as the minister of state for planning, defence and external affairs before being elevated to cabinet rank in 1969.

In his condolence message, Manmohan Singh described Bhagat as “a freedom fighter, a great patriot and a veteran politician who was deeply committed to the cause of the people”.

Manmohan Singh conveyed his “heartfelt condolences” in a letter to the bereaved family.

“I have lost a very close friend and a valued colleague in his sad demise,” the prime minister said.

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar also condoled his saying she was “deeply pained”.

“Bhagat was one of those visionary leaders of independent India who guided the destiny of the nation during its early years and subsequently through its journey as a vibrant democracy.

“He had an abiding faith in parliamentary democracy. As the speaker of Lok Sabha, he left his indelible impression on the proceedings of the house and upheld its prestige and dignity.

“In Bhagats passing away, we have lost a worthy son of India, the speaker said.

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