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Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi was a stalwart of Congress politics in Bengal

Photo: Tehelka

By Rimli Bhattacharya

After being comatose for eight long years, resulting from a stroke, the erstwhile Member of Parliament, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi passed away on 20 November, 2017. He was seventy-two. He leaves behind his grieving wife, Deepa Dasmunsi, a social worker and son, Priyadeep Dasmunsi.

He was born in 1945 at Chirirbander in Dinajpur East district, Bangladesh. Dasmunsi entered politics during his college days in Raiganj, North Bengal.  He became the president of the state Youth Congress and a member of the All India Congress Committee in 1970, when he was only twenty five. The following year, he was elected to the Lok Sabha under the leadership of Mrs Indira Gandhi.

In 1977, he was elected a member of the all-powerful Congress Working Committee (CWC). He was the Union minister of state for commerce from 1985 to 1989 and a cabinet minister in Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting during the tenure of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He was also notable for his strong anti-Left credentials.

Regarding his contribution to the Congress, Suvojit Bagchi writes in The Hindu:

Former president of the State unit of the Bengal Congress, Somendranath Mitra said that many of today’s leaders in the State and the Centre were “brought up” by Mr. Dasmunsi. “When he became the president of the State Congress’ student’s wing, he made me the chief of the wing in central Kolkata,” said Mr. Mitra […]. Even if it was Siddhartha Sankar Roy, the former Chief Minister, at the helm of affairs in the State, in the 1972 Assembly election, it was the 27-year-old Dasmunsi who virtually decided the list of candidates on the basis of his grassroot-level network and understanding of Bengal politics,” said another Congress leader. Mr. Dasmunsi handed over the list to the late former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and played a key role in steering the party in 1972. However, there were allegations of severe malpractices in the 1972 election. It was an exaggeration by the Left-led Opposition. There were some disturbances […], but it was nowhere close to what Left often says,” said Mr. Dasmunsi in an interview to this correspondent in 2004.

Though he was an astute politician, he was equally noted for his contribution to the Indian Football Team. He laid the foundation stone for the National Football league in 1996. He became the president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in 1989 and he held that position for nineteen years. On his contribution to Football, Baichung Bhutia said to the Firstpost: “Very very sad to hear that. His contribution to AIFF has been massive. His contribution has really taken Indian football forward. He was very passionate about football. He had football in his blood. He went out of his way in being supportive when I was playing for East Bengal. His passion and love for the game was easily seen by everyone.”

The tragic end to this political leader and football lover came when a paralytic attack hit him in 2008. He was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and later transferred to Apollo Hospital. He was on life support, suffered a complete shutdown of the left ventricular system. There was no blood supply to his brain spawning an irreversible damage. He remained in a vegetative state and breathed through a tracheostomy tube. His stomach had a PEG tube inserted to be fed to keep him alive. Though he breathed through the life support provided to him, he was not at all aware of his surroundings. He was also taken to Germany for treatment but fate willed otherwise. His wife stood solid as a rock by his side till his last breath and assumed his political mantle to an extent in his absence.

Rest your weary head, Priyada.

Rimli Bhattacharya completed Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology. She is a trained Indian classical dancer, based out of Mumbai, India. She tweets at: @rimli76


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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Remembering Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in Bicentenary Year (1817-2017)’, edited by Dr. Irfanullah Farooqi, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India.

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