Former Union minister and Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh passed away at a Gurugram hospital on Thursday morning battling COVID-19, his family said. He was 82.
Singh, a prominent farmer leader and the only son of former prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, was diagnosed positive for COVID-19 on April 20, the family said in a statement.
'Chaudhary Ajit Singh ji was diagnosed as COVID+ on the 20th April. He battled his condition till the very end and breathed his last today morning, the 6th of May, 2021,' his son Jayant Chaudhary tweeted.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav were among several leaders who condoled the death of the Jat leader.
Singh was on ventilator support in the Gurgaon hospital for the past five-six days after his health condition deteriorated, eventually leading to his death due to 'multiple organ failure', sources said.
He was cremated at Gurgaon's Madanpuri electric crematorium around 1 pm with only a few family members, including son Jayant Chaudhary, the elder son-in-law and close relatives in attendance, due to the pandemic restrictions, the sources said.
A message posted by Jayant Chaudhary on behalf of the family said, 'Throughout his life journey, Chaudhary Sahib was loved and respected by many. He, in turn cherished this bond with all of you and gave his best consideration and efforts for your welfare.'
'As our nation confronts the horrific pandemic, it is our humble request to all those who wish to pay their respects, to please stay at home as far as possible. We must observe all safety protocols to keep ourselves and everyone around us healthy and safe.'
'This would be the best way to honour Chaudhary Sahib as well as all those COVID warriors who are working night and day to protect us,' he said.
'We pray for solace for all those families that have been ravaged by this brutal disease,' the message stated.
Sources said Singh was admitted to a hospital in Gurugram on the evening of April 20 soon after he was diagnosed with coronavirus where he took his last breath on Thursday due to 'multiple organ failure'.
His granddaughter had also tested positive for the infection then, but she has recovered now, the sources said.
The body was taken straight from the hospital to the Madanpuri crematorium.
"All party workers and functionaries and his domestic staff were instructed to avoid the last rites considering their safety amid the raging pandemic," according to a source.
Born on February 12, 1939, Ajit Singh studied at Lucknow University, IIT- Kharagpur and the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, the United States.
He was a computer scientist by training and worked for 15 years in the US.
Singh took his first dive into active politics in the 1980s and entered Parliament through Rajya Sabha in 1986.
He was a six-time parliamentarian and served as a union minister on multiple occasions, the first being as the Minister for Industry in 1989 in the National Front government and the last being Civil Aviation Minister from 2011 in the UPA government. Singh was once considered among the tallest leaders in north India with his regional RLD party holding influence in western Uttar Pradesh. His dominance as a Jat leader continued in the region to this date even as his party suffered a setback in the 2017 state elections and 2019 general polls.
Singh's demise left many grieving in his stronghold region of western Uttar Pradesh.
RLD functionaries in districts like Baghpat, Muzaffarnagar, Kasganj, Shamli, Meerut, among others, said they were flooded with messages and phone calls of condolence.
"A havan will be performed at the RLD's head office in Baghpat district (the party's bastion) for the departed leader while similar memorials are also planned in other districts of the region," a party functionary told PTI, saying all these events will follow COVID-19 protocols.
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) also condoled the passing away of Singh, with whom BKU leaders Naresh and Rakesh Tikait had ties going back to the heydays of their fathers Chaudhary Charan Singh and Mahender Singh Tikait, both regarded as 'messiah' of farmers.
'In Ajit Singh's demise, the farmers have lost their advocate in Delhi. While he was alive, every farmer was assured that he had a home in Delhi,' Rakesh Tikait said in a statement.