Chhattisgarh mourns Shukla's death

Raipur, June 11 (IANS) The death of Vidya Charan Shukla, one of the leading political figures of central India, left his thousands of supporters in Chhattisgarh sobbing on Tuesday when the news came while political leaders across the spectrum termed it the "end of an era".

His admirers were expecting the inevitable as the 84-year-old Shukla's health was showing no signs of improvement after he received multiple-bullet shots on May 25 when a convoy of the Congress was ambushed by Maoist militants in a jungle pocket in restive Bastar region.

Dozens of people thronged his residence-cum-farm house Radheshayam Bhawan in Raipur soon after his death was confirmed and his close aides had a tough time trying to console distraught supporters who were crying and beating their chests.

Chhattisgarh's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declared a three-day state mourning as a mark of respect to a seasoned politician of the state.

Condoling the death of "Vidya Bhaiya" as Shukla was called in political circles, Governor Shekhar Dutt said that with his demise, an era has ended on Tuesday. The veteran leader served the state as well as the nation for 60 long years in various capacities.

Shukla played an important role in the creation of Chhattisgarh too, Dutt recalled.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said that with the demise of Shukla, the state suffered a great loss as in this crucial time Chhattisgarh's polity was in great need of his political acumen and statesmanship.

Congress treasurer Motilal Vora, who hails from the state, termed Shukla's death "a great shock for me as well as the entire Congress party, a loss which can hardly be expressed in words".

Shukla's rival and Chhattisgarh's former chief minister Ajit Jogi said that India has lost a great political personality and a towering figure, and filling the vacuum created by his death is "impossible".

Terming him as a martyr, Jogi said "even the bullets of Maoists could not deter him from fighting for people".

Leader of Congress legislature party Ravindra Choubey termed the departure of "Vidya Bhaiya" an untimely and irreparable loss for the party as well as people of Chhattisgarh.

Chhattisgarh Congress' acting president Charandas Mahant, who is a minister of state in the central government, also termed it a great loss for the party as well as for people "as the veteran leader was tirelessly working for the poor and the deprived till his last breath".

State minister and senior BJP leader Brijmohan Agrawal said Shukla was a political personality in himself and popular among masses.

BJP MP Dilip Singh Judeo, Agriculture Minister Chandra Shekhar Sahu, Congress legislator Dharamjit Singh, former ministers Bhupesh Baghel and Vidhan Mishra and other leaders also mourned Shukla's death.

His body is to be kept at Chhattisgarh Congress headquarters - Gandhi Bhawan - on Wednesday for his supporters and people to pay their last respects.

A number of top Congress leaders are expected to attend his last rites Wednesday.

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