By Arré Bench Oct. 09, 2020
In 1977, Ram Vilas Paswan made his way into record books, when he won from the Hajipur Lok Sabha seat in Bihar with the highest-ever margin. Since then, he served six prime ministers, from VP Singh to Narendra Modi.
Veteran socialist leader and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan died on Thursday evening at a Delhi hospital where he was recuperating from heart surgery, his son has said. The Cabinet minister and founder of the Lok Janshakti party was 74.
On Saturday, his son, Chirag Paswan had announced that his father would need heart surgery due to an unforeseen medical situation. On Thursday evening, he tweeted that Paswan didn’t survive the procedure, sharing an old picture of the two of them.
पापा….अब आप इस दुनिया में नहीं हैं लेकिन मुझे पता है आप जहां भी हैं हमेशा मेरे साथ हैं।
Miss you Papa… pic.twitter.com/Qc9wF6Jl6Z
— युवा बिहारी चिराग पासवान (@iChiragPaswan) October 8, 2020
An unstoppable political force, Paswan leaves behind a rich legacy, considering he was one of the few politicians to have been a part of almost every government since 1989. The Dalit leader has served six prime ministers, starting with V P Singh and ending with the current government, in which he was minister for Consumer Affairs and Food and Public Distribution.
Prior to that, he had served as a legislator in Bihar’s Assembly, after winning his first election by campaigning on a cycle which he bought with money his father gave him to buy a health drink.
#WATCH Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays last respects to Union Minister and LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan at the latter's residence.
The LJP leader passed away yesterday. pic.twitter.com/rDgRrHl7aT
— ANI (@ANI) October 9, 2020
Such was the man’s influence that Bihar’s former chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav once called him a “mausam vaigyanik” (weather scientist), because of his knack for sniffing out the winning side in elections. Back in 1977, this was evidenced by the fact that he actually entered the Guinness Book of World Records for winning an election with the largest ever margin, when he defeated the opposition in Majipur by over four lakh votes.
Gone too soon, Ram Vila’s Paswan, among our most brilliant & open-minded politicians. RIP. Though he started a diehard socialist, his ideology finally was to always be on the winning side. We spoke about it in this episode of #CutTheClutterhttps://t.co/BQJluMoDDw
— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) October 9, 2020
To make this statistic even more significant, that election was held just two years after he was jailed for protesting against Indira Gandhi’s emergency.
Paswan may have eventually lost his Guinness spot to P V Narasimha Rao in 1991, but his rise continued to be meteoric. In 2000, when he founded the Lok Janshakti party, he was already being hailed as the biggest Dalit leader in Bihar after Jagjivan Ram.
— Hindustan Times (@htTweets) October 9, 2020
In 2004, Paswan allied with the Congress, following Sonia Gandhi’s “walk next-door” policy. But then, in 2014, once the tides had turned against the party, he was back with the BJP — with whom he had cut ties following the 2002 Gujarat riots — ensuring that he always held an important Cabinet portfolio.
Working together, shoulder to shoulder with Paswan Ji has been an incredible experience. His interventions during Cabinet Meetings were insightful. From political wisdom, statesmanship to governance issues, he was brilliant. Condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 8, 2020
But beyond his political prowess, Paswan was known by most to be an affable man, who always kept his doors open to the public, even as most politicians were gaining a reputation for being elusive. An old photograph that has been doing the rounds shows former “Bandit Queen”-turned-politician Phoolan Devi tying him a rakhi, while another shows him helping his wife fry pakoras for journalists who had arrived for a press conference.
— rama lakshmi (@RamaNewDelhi) October 9, 2020
In 1984, during the ant-Sikh pogrom, he reportedly gave refuge to a driver who was being chased by a mob.
Few years back, at an exhibition showcasing anti Sikh violence of Nov 1984, saw a photograph for a burnt house. It belonged to Ram Vilas Paswan. A Sikh taxi driver being chased by a mob had taken refuge in his house. Infuriated mob set a portion of his house on fire. RIP Netaji
— ਸਰਬਜੀਤ ਸਿੰਘ (@nihang) October 8, 2020
As his son announces his death today, it marks a historic shifting point in Bihar politics, where Paswan’s party continues to hold five to seven per cent of the vote share, largely because of him.
Leaders across party lines paid tribute to Paswan. President Ram Nath Kovind called him the “voice of the oppressed”.
In the demise of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, the nation has lost a visionary leader. He was among the most active and longest-serving members of parliament. He was the voice of the oppressed, and championed the cause of the marginalized.
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) October 8, 2020
“The Dalit community lost of one its strong political voice today,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said.
रामविलास पासवान जी के असमय निधन का समाचार दुखद है। ग़रीब-दलित वर्ग ने आज अपनी एक बुलंद राजनैतिक आवाज़ खो दी।
उनके परिवारजनों को मेरी संवेदनाएँ।
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 8, 2020
Home Ministry officials have said the veteran politician will be accorded with a state funeral, and the national flag will fly at half-mast in all state capitals on Friday. His last rites will be performed in Patna on Saturday.