Former I&B Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi passes away

New Delhi: Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who suffered a stroke in 2008 and slipped into coma, passed away at Apollo Hospital here on Monday. He was 72.

Dasmunsi is survived by his wife Deepa Dasmunsi and son Priyadeep, who were at his side when he died.

He served as Minister of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and Parliamentary Affairs in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet from 2004 to 2008, when he suffered a paralytic stroke, lost his power of speech and went into a coma from which he never came out.

He was admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Later he was shifted to his home, and in 2009 he was admitted to Apollo Hospitals here.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and several other political figures apart from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) condoled Dasmunsi’s death.

His mortal remains were briefly kept at the Congress headquarters where leaders paid tributes to him.

In his home state West Bengal, politicians cutting across party lines paid glowing tributes to Dasmunsi. Condolences poured in from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and senior Ministers like Subrata Mukherjee, Partha Chatterjee, and Sovandeb Chattopadhyay.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his condolence message said: “Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi was a popular leader with rich political and administrative experience. He did notable work to popularise football in India. Saddened by his demise. My thoughts are with (his wife) Deepa Dasmunsi ji and family as well as his supporters.”

Congress President Sonia Gandhi remembered Dasmunsi as a “devout political activist and one of the tallest leaders of West Bengal in recent times”.

“Despite his prolonged illness, he remained popular in imagination of his people. His death is an irreparable loss to the Congress party and the country,” Gandhi said in her condolence message.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel led the football fraternity in condoling the demise of his predecessor.

Describing Dasmunsi’s demise as a massive loss for Indian Football, Patel said: “It is very sad to hear that Dasmunsi is no more. His contribution to Indian Football can never be forgotten. The thoughts and prayers of the Indian football community are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Dasmunsi stewarded the country’s football for close to two decades till 2008, when, after his illness, Praful Patel took over the reins.

As AIFF president, Dasmunsi started the National Football League in 1996, served as match commissioner in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany and organised the Millennium Cup international tournament in 2000.

As I&B minister, Dasmunsi banned several western television networks, calling their broadcasts obscene. During his tenure, the Centre got Indian sports broadcaster Nimbus to share broadcast rights for Indian cricket matches with the state-run Doordarshan.

Born on November 13, 1945 at Chirirbandar (now in Bangladesh), Dasmunsi’s talent saw his meteoric rise in the 1970s in the Congress, then led by Indira Gandhi. He became an All India Congress Committee member in 1970, was made the state youth Congress chief the same year, and entered the Lok Sabha from the then South Calcutta seat in 1971, at the young age of 26.

In those days, Dasmunsi was a magnet for those young men and women in West Bengal, who disagreed with the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) — the main force of the two United Front governments in the state in 1967 and 1969 — as also the policy of the bullets espoused by the Maoists.

As early as 1971, he was elected president of All India Youth Congress, a position he held till 1975, when Sanjay Gandhi removed him to anoint his (Gandhi’s) favourite, Ambika Soni, to the post.

Dasmunsi did not take the snub kindly, and left the Congress in 1979, when the party split after it lost power at the Centre in 1977 at the height of the anti-Emergency wave.

Dasmunsi joined the Congress (Socialist), became its West Bengal president. But he returned to the Congress fold after the party rode back to power in 1980.

In 1984, Dasmunsi returned to the Lok Saba from Howrah constituency by exploiting the sentiments of the jobless youths in the area. In meeting after meeting, he displayed a key and declared: “This is the key to open all closed factories and industries.”

In 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi inducted Dasmunsi in his council of ministers as Minister of State for Commerce. Dasmunsi lost from Howrah in 1989, with many saying his failed promise to reopen factories led to the debacle.

He again bit the dust in 1991 but re-entered the Lok Sabha in 1996 from the same constituency. In 1999, Dasmunsi successfully fought the Lok Sabha elections from Raiganj and repeated his success in 2004.

In 1994, Dasmunsi married actress Deepa Dasmunsi, who later became an MLA and MP. The couple has one son, Priyadeep, nicknamed Michil.