Former Bharatiya Janata Party president Shashikant Sunderrao 'Kushabhau' Thakre died in New Delhi on Sunday following a prolonged illness. He was 82 and a bachelor.
Thakre was suffering from cancer of the kidney, and the illness had spread all over his body, D K Sharma, officiating medical superintendent of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, said.
Thakre was admitted to the AIIMS and discharged a number of times in the recent past. He was admitted to the hospital again last week and the end came at 0800 IST today, Dr Sharma said.
Thakre, who began his political career as a pracharak in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, rose to occupy various important posts in the erstwhile Jan Sangh and then the BJP before becoming its vice-president and then president in 1998, when the party came to power for the first time at the Centre.
He was succeeded by Bangaru Laxman, who became BJP president in 2000.
Thakre steered the party at a crucial time when it had to keep its pet Hindutva theme on the backburner to forge a rainbow coalition.
During his tenure, he also brought an amendment to the party constitution which made a break mandatory after a person had been president of the party for two terms of two years each.
Born on August 15, 1922, in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, Thakre was one the founder-members of the erstwhile Jan Sangh and was associated with the RSS since 1942. He was jailed for 19 months during the Emergency.
Condoling his death, BJP chief M Venkaiah Naidu described him as "a real karma yogi, ideal party worker and an inspiration to lakhs of party workers around the country".
Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani said Thakre was a 'towering leader' whose demise had created a void in the party, which would be difficult to fill.
His body has been taken to the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, where it has been kept for members of the public and political leaders to pay their last respects. It will then be flown to Bhopal by a special flight, with Advani in attendance, for the last rites at the Chhola Road cremation ground on Monday.
In Bhopal too the body will be kept at the state BJP headquarters in Deendayal Complex at Arora Colony for people to pay their last respects.
The BJP top brass, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Cabinet colleagues, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti and her Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh counterparts -- Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh, respectively -- are also expected to be present at the cremation.
Senior politicians of different parties, including the Congress, are also likely to attend.