Veteran Congress leader Motilal Vora, a staunch Gandhi family loyalist who was a chief minister, Union minister and governor in a political career spanning almost five decades, died at a hospital in New Delhi on Monday following post-COVID-19 complications, his family said.
A long time confidante of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Vora completed 92 years on Sunday, they said.
The state governments of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh declared a three-day state mourning from Monday, according to official statements.
Vora was a two-time former chief minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh.
Vora, who had tested positive for COVID-19 in October and was discharged after he recovered, was admitted to the Escorts Hospital in Okhla in the national capital a few days ago with a urinary infection.
He developed a severe lung infection and was put on ventilator support, his family said.
He leaves behind his wife, two sons and four daughters.
His last rites will be conducted on Tuesday in Durg in Chhattisgarh, where he stayed most of his life.
A former governor of Uttar Pradesh in the post-1992 Babri Masjid demolition era and a Union minister, Vora had served as a Rajya Sabha member four times and was a Lok Sabha MP for one term.
Vora's death comes weeks after the demise of Ahmed Patel, another trusted aide of Sonia Gandhi, who is battling dissent in the party.
A senior Congress leader and the party's top strategist, Patel died at a Gurgaon hospital on November 25 due to multi-organ failure.
President Ram Nath Kovind, vice president M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several political leaders including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi paid glowing tributes to the departed leader.
While Prime Minister Modi described Vora as a senior-most Congress leader, who had vast administrative and organisational experience, Sonia Gandhi said his life is a shining example of public service and unparalleled commitment to the Congress ideology.
Called ‘Babuji', Vora, who developed a hunchback in later years, remained active in the Congress till earlier this year.
He was also a long-time All India Congress Committee treasurer, occupying the position for almost two decades till 2018, and last held the party post of AICC general secretary (administration).
Endearing, loyal and devoted to his work, Vora was considered as a people's man and was accessible to all.
Old-timers say he was one of the leaders who would make it a point to sit in the AICC office everyday during his various stints in the party.
He was also the chairman of Associated Journals Limited and later a director in the Young Indian, associated with the National Herald.
Vora, along with Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others, is an accused in the National Herald corruption case which is pending before a Delhi court.
Considered the last of the old guard Gandhians in the Congress, Vora was earlier a socialist leader.
Vora was born in Nagaur in Rajasthan in 1928, but spent most of his active life in now Chhattisgarh.
He was a six-term MLA of undivided Madhya Pradesh assembly.
He also served as the president of the MP Congress Committee in the 1980s.
He started his political career as a member of the Municipal Committee of Durg (then part of Madhya Pradesh) in 1968 and later joined the Congress.
He was first elected to the MP assembly in 1972 on a Congress ticket and became a minister of state in Arjun Singh's Cabinet. He was elevated as Cabinet Minister in 1983.
In March 1985, Vora was appointed Chief Minister of MP by Rajiv Gandhi. He resigned from the post in February 1988 to join the Union Government. He again became chief minister of the state in January 1989.
He was Union minister of health and family welfare and held the charge of the ministry of civil aviation as well.
"Sad to hear that veteran Congress leader Shri Motilal Vora is no more. He was humility personified, and belonged to a generation of leaders who carry their politics with unflinching conviction till end. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends," President Kovind tweeted.
Naidu, who is also the Rajya Sabha chairman, said he was deeply saddened to learn about Vora's demise who commanded great respect and love across the political spectrum.
"His dedication, loyalty and contribution to his party is recognised by all. His work against malnutrition in children, especially in Chhattisgarh, has now started giving good results," he said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah also took to Twitter to express their condolences.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said Vora was a true Congress leader with a lot of administrative and political experience.
"In his death our country has lost a veteran Congress leader and an excellent administrator. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family," Singh said in a letter to Vora's son.
In her condolence message, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said, "Shri Motilal Vora's demise has left a huge void that would be difficult to fill. His life is a shining example of public service and unparalleled commitment to the Congress ideology. We will always miss his guidance and his selfless service."
Condoling Vora's demise, Rahul Gandhi said, "Vora ji was a true congressman and a wonderful human being. We will miss him very much."
Senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said every Congress leader and worker is feeling personally pained by Vora's death.
"Vora ji was a symbol of loyalty, dedication and patience towards the ideology of Congress," she said.
Priyanka Gandhi also said Vora was present at every party meeting even at the age of 92 and expressed his views openly on every issue.
"Today, while bidding him goodbye I feel sad that an elder member of the family has left us. We will all miss him very much," she added.
Rahul and Priyanka visited the residence of Vora to pay their tributes.
Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, "A giant is no more. Sh Moti Lal Vora was the epitome of commitment, dedication and loyalty. He inspired an entire generation with his untiring attitude and capacity to brave every adversity."
The Congress in its official Twitter handle said the party has lost a guiding light.