Mumbai/New Delhi, Aug 22 (IANS) Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Gurudas Kamat died in New Delhi on Wednesday following a massive heart attack. He was 63.
According to a family friend, Kamat complained of severe chest pain while having his morning tea at his home. He called out his driver who rushed him to a hospital in Chanakyapuri where he died within minutes.
Kamat, 63, is survived by wife Maharookh and son Sunil.
His body will be flown to Mumbai on Wednesday night and the funeral shall be held in Chembur on Thursday afternoon, said a party official.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, among other leaders, condoled the death.
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi visited the hospital where Kamat passed away and placed a wreath on his body.
Respected across party lines, the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had picked Kamat as part of a four-member official delegation to the UN in 2003 along with former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah.
Kamat represented former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the UN International Conference on Federalism in Addis Ababa in 2010.
A five-time Lok Sabha member from Mumbai, Kamat served as Union Minister of State for Home in 2009 but abruptly resigned in 2011 citing “personal reasons” after his appointment as Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Drinking Water and Sanitation.
He served as Union Minister of State for Communications and IT.
Kamat resigned from the Congress in 2016 over his reported unhappiness with the functioning of the local party unit in Mumbai but was persuaded by the top leadership to withdraw it.
In April 2017, he sprang another surprise by quitting all party posts though he remained a staunch Congressman till the end.
Born in North Canara district’s Ankola village in Karnataka and educated in Mumbai, he was a lawyer by qualification, regarded an able organiser and a good orator.
Kamat was President of the party’s student wing NSUI (1976-1980), Indian Youth Congress chief (1987-88), Mumbai Congress President (2003-08) and later served the party as a General Secretary.
Rahul Gandhi, who is in Germany, tweeted: “The sudden passing away of Kamatji is a massive blow to the Congress family. Gurudasji helped build the Congress in Mumbai and was greatly respected and admired by all.”
Manmohan Singh said: “I am shocked and saddened to learn about the sudden and untimely demise of Gurudas Kamat.”
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to his son: “I am extremely saddened to learn about the demise of your beloved father… He was a dedicated public servant and a mass leader of Maharashtra. He will be missed by the country and Congress in Maharashtra.”
Fadnavis said he was saddened by Kamat’s demise.
Sharad Pawar said the country had “lost a leader who knew the pulse of Mumbaikars and would always voice their concern in Parliament”.
Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan said he “lost a great colleague”.
A pall of gloom descended at the Mumbai Congress headquarters near Azad Maidan – which Kamat headed for several years – with many senior leaders and activists seen breaking down.
“It is an irreparable loss. Kamatji took pains to build up the Mumbai Congress and maintained contact with all the grassroots workers,” said Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Mumbai North-East Kirit Somaiya said: “We have lost a gentleman politician, an MP always active for the betterment of Mumbai though we contested Lok Sabha elections against each other.”
On Tuesday evening, Kamat had greeted party leader Ahmed Patel on his birthday and congratulated him for his re-appointment as Congress treasurer. In his last tweet hours before the end, Kamat extended his greetings to the people on Eid-ul-Azha.