Tributes poured in for Union Cabinet minister Ram Vilas Paswan following his death on October 8th, 2020 aged 74.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among those to pay tribute to Paswan, whose passing was announced by his son Chirag on Twitter. Ram Vilas Paswan had undergone heart surgery on Sunday, following which Chirag tweeted “over the last few days, my father was being treated at a hospital. Yesterday night, due to the situation that had suddenly emerged, he had to undergo a heart surgery. If required, another operation may be needed. At the time of need, I thank you all for standing by our side.”
On Thursday, Chirag announced his father’s passing. Tweeting in Hindi, he said “Papa …. Now you are not in this world but I know you are always with me wherever you are.” He added in English “Miss you Papa …”.
Modi responded to the news with a Tweet that said “I am saddened beyond words. There is a void in our nation that will perhaps never be filled. Shri Ram Vilas Paswan Ji’s demise is a personal loss. I have lost a friend, valued colleague and someone who was extremely passionate to ensure every poor person leads a life of dignity.”
A subsequent tweet read “Shri Ram Vilas Paswan Ji rose in politics through hardwork and determination. As a young leader, he resisted tyranny and the assault on our democracy during the Emergency. He was an outstanding Parliamentarian and Minister, making lasting contributions in several policy areas.” He later announced that he had “paid respects to late Shri Ram Vilas Paswan Ji. His unwavering commitment to social justice will always be remembered.”
Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also paid tribute. Writing to Chirag, he praised Paswan’s “illustrious public life” and said “I am deeply saddened by the sudden demise of your father Shri Ram Vilas Paswan. We have lost a veteran leader who left a lasting imprint on politics and public service in both Bihar and our nation.”
Hailing from the state of Bihar, Paswan was born on July 5th, 1946. His career in politics spanned decades, in which he served as a member of the Bihar Legislative Assembly, the Indian Parliament, and the Union Cabinet.
Paswan served in the Cabinet under multiple Prime Ministers during his multi-decade career in Indian politics. At the time of his death, Paswan served as Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution under Prime Minister Modi – a position he held from May 26th, 2014 until his passing.
At the time of his death, Paswan represented Bihar in the Rajya Sabha – having done so since June 28th, 2019. Prior to that, he served as a parliamentarian in the Lok Sabha where he represented the constituency of Hajipur from 1977 to 1984, 1989 to 1991, 1996 to 2009, and 2014 to 2019. Between 1991 and 1996, he also represented the constituency of Rosera.
As well as his service under Prime Minister Modi, Paswan served under Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh as Minister of Labour and Welfare from December 5th, 1989 to November 10th, 1990. During the administrations of Prime Ministers H. D. Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral, Paswan served as Minister of Railways from June 1st, 1996 to March 19th, 1998.
During the premiership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Paswan served from October 13th, 1999 to September 1st 2001 as Minister of Communications and Information Technology and then as Minister of Mines from September 1st, 2001 to April 29th, 2002. Under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he served as Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers from May 23rd, 2004 to May 22nd, 2009.
Detained during the Emergency of the 1970s under then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Paswan was a member of the Janata Dal (United) party from 1977 until 2000 where he broke away to found the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). The LJP left the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2002 and would later join the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), before returning to the NDA and became an ally of Prime Minister Modi.
A Dalit, Paswan was described by NDTV.com following his death as “one of the country’s most noted Dalit leaders. Mr Paswan and his party represented India’s socially disadvantaged classes, which make up about three-quarters of the Hindu population that is about eighty percent of India’s 130 crore people.”
His obituary in The Hindu noted how “he wore many hats — a Dalit leader, a socialist, a liberal and also a political opportunist” as well as being “a dynast”
“He brought his brothers Pashupati Nath Paras and late Ramchandra Paswan into politics. Of the six seats that the LJP won in 2019, three are from his family — Chirag, brother Pashupati Kumar Paras and nephew Prince Raj.”