Original Make in India champion Rahul Bajaj no more; funeral on Sunday (2nd Ld)

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Renowned industrialist Rahul Bajaj — the doyen of the Bajaj Group, who made his two-wheelers a household name with the catchy slogan ‘Hamara Bajaj’ — passed away in Pune following a prolonged illness.

A former Chairman of the now-defunct domestic carrier, Indian Airlines, he was ailing from cancer for a long time and the end came at the Ruby Hospital at around 2.30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, sending waves of grief in corporate and political circles.

Bajaj was 83 and is survived by two sons, Rajiv and Sanjiv, and a daughter Sunaina Kejriwal, and other family members who were present beside when he breathed his last.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced that Bajaj will be accorded full state honours for his funeral slated on Sunday afternoon in Pune.

“It is with deep sorrow that I inform you about the passing of Shri Rahul Bajaj, husband of the late Rupa Bajaj, and father of Rajiv/Deepa, Sanjiv/Shefali, Sunaina/Manish (Kejriwal). He passed away on the afternoon of 12th February in the presence of his closest family members,” said a statement from the Bajaj Group on Saturday evening.

Born on June 10, 1938 in (now) Kolkata, Bajaj graduated in 1958 from St. Stephens College, in Delhi University, with an Honours degree in Economics.

Later, he acquired a Law degree from University of Bombay and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Joining the family enterprise founded by his grandfather, the industrialist-philanthropist-freedom fighter Jamnalal Bajaj, Rahul Bajaj became the CEO of the flagship Bajaj Auto in 1968 and its Managing Director in 1972.

It was during his captaincy of the Bajaj Group which soared from small family concern to one of the biggest in the sub-continent with immense contribution in nation-building, helping lay the foundations of its economy and creating a global mark with its two-wheelers and three-wheelers among other products over the decades.

A Rajya Sabha Member (2006-2010) and conferred the Padmashri and Padma Bhushan, he stepped down as the Chairman of Bajaj Auto in April 2021 but was appointed as Chairman Emeritus for another five years.

Bajaj’s mortal remains shall be kept for public ‘darshan’ on Sunday morning at the company’s plant premises and the last rites shall be performed at the Vaikunth Crematorium later with full state honours.

Top business and political leaders like Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, his close family friends Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar, Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan, Kishore Tiwari and Dr. Raghunath Kuchik, both MoS, Deputy Chairperson of Legislative Council Dr. Neelam Gorhe, Supriya Sule, MP, top Maha Vikas Aghadi leaders, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nitin Gadkari and Raosaheb Danve-Patil, Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis and others condoled Bajaj’s passing.

“I am deeply shocked to learn about the sad demise of Padma Bhushan Shri Rahul Bajaj, my very close friend. The grandson of eminent freedom fighter Jamnalal Bajaj brought transformation in society, especially in poor and middle-class people with his two-wheel technology – a Bajaj bike,” said Sharad Pawar.

Saying India has lost an industrialist, a philanthropist and a lighthouse for young entrepreneurs, the NCP supremo said the affordable vehicle – ‘Hamara Bajaj’ – increased mobility, eased struggle for getting means of livelihood and became the tool of socio-economic change, for which “we Indians are deeply indebted”.

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