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August 23, 2000
Well-wishers, colleagues bid farewell
Our Correspondent in New Delhi
Political leaders cutting across party lines and a large number of people began pouring into the official residence of P Rangarajan Kumaramangalam to pay their last respects to the dynamic leader who passed away early Wednesday morning at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Kumaramangalam's body has been placed in his official residence on Aurangzeb Road.
Condoling his death, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said he has lost a dear colleague and a friend. He said he was saddened by the death and that Kumaramangalam would be missed.
Since early morning, political leaders cutting across party lines began to pour into Kumaramangalam's residence. Information and Technology Minister Pramod Mahajan was one of the first to reach the place.
He said it was really a sad moment for Indian politics and that the void left behind by Kumaramangalam would be difficult to fill. "His absence would be felt across party lines," Mahajan told reporters outside the deceased minister's residence.
He said it was heartbreaking that the country lost two of its most dynamic leaders this year. He was referring to the death of Congress leader Rajesh Pilot early this year in a road accident on the Delhi-Jaipur highway.
Union Home Minister L K Advani, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley were among the leaders who visited the deceased minister's residence to express their condolence to the bereaved family.
Kumaramangalam is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter. His daughter, who was studying law in the United States, and two sisters who have settled in London, had reached Delhi a few days back after they were informed about the minister's hospitalisation.
Senior officials of power ministry recalled that Kumaramangalam single-handedly ushered in massive reforms in the country's sick power sector. It was under him that state electricity boards, most of them in the red, began their transition to corporations and privatisation. He refused to give into the demands of striking employees earlier this year, saying privatisation was the only way to salvage the loss-making state electricity boards.
As a politician, Kumaramangalam was known for his left-of-centre views. However, to the surprise of many, he jumped from the Congress to the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party. He smoothly merged into the BJP set-up, emerging as one of its suave and vocal faces. He was elected twice from Tiruchirapally (Tamil Nadu) on the BJP ticket.
Kumaramangalam was earlier admitted to Apollo Hospital a couple of months back after he continued to suffer from high fever. Later, he was moved to the AIIMS where doctors diagnosed his disease as acute myeloid leukaemia.
He was on life support systems after suffering from multiple organ failure for almost a week now.
According to his family friends, the cremation is expected to take place Wednesday evening.
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