Kolkata: Veteran CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta, one of the doyens of the country's trade union movement and a former MP, died here on Thursday following prolonged illness. He was 83. Dasgupta is survived by his wife and daughter.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of the CPI veteran, saying he was a strong voice in Parliament.
A five-term parliamentarian since 1985, Dasgupta was three times elected to the Rajya Sabha and twice voted to the Lok Sabha from West Bengal.
He was born on November 3, 1936, in Barishal district (now in Bangladesh) of undivided Bengal. After partition, he along with his parents and siblings moved to West Bengal.
A fiery orator who never shied away from raising issues concerning the masses and the working class both inside and outside parliament, Dasgupta was baptised into politics as a student leader during the tumultuous '50s and '60s.
He served as the president and general secretary of the undivided Bengal Provincial Students' Federation in late '50s and went underground several times.
After the CPI split in 1964, which led to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Dasgupta decided to stay with the parent party.
Later, he was shifted to the labour wing of the party in the early '70s to work among the labour force employed in the organised and unorganised sectors.
Dasgupta, who took over as the general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) - the trade union wing of the CPI - in 2001, is credited with transforming the lesser-known trade union into a major trade union front of the country.
The widely travelled communist, with his trademark full-sleeve red sweater during winter, stood out as a parliamentarian for his oratory skills.
His speeches earned praise from politicians, cutting across party lines.
Though a die hard communist, Dasgupta was not dogmatic and shared good terms with leaders across the political spectrum.
Despite being political and ideological adversaries, he shared a rapport with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a section of Congress leaders and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
In 2004, Dasgupta along with late CPI leader A B Bardhan, played a key role in the formation of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA-1) government which was supported by the Left parties, including the CPI.
An uncompromising crusader against corruption and capitalism, Dasgupta was at the forefront in highlighting the Bofors scandal that came into the public domain in the late '80s.
Dasgupta, known for his spartan lifestyle, was also a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) formed to probe the 2G spectrum scandal during the tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His speeches and dissent note against the JPC report were widely recognised.
In 2014, he decided not to contest Lok Sabha polls due to poor health.
Announcing his death this morning, West Bengal CPI secretary Swapan Banerjee said, "He (Dasgupta) died at his home in Kolkata at 6 am. He was suffering from lung cancer for quite some time.
"Due to his poor health, he had relinquished party posts, though he continued to be a member of the national executive council of the CPI."
Leaders cutting across political lines condoled his death and said his demise has left and void in the trade union and Left movement of the country.
In his condolence message, the vice president said, Dasgupta was an able parliamentarian and a well-known trade union leader.
"My heartfelt condolences to bereaved family members, friends and well wishers," Naidu said.
Prime Minister Modi described the CPI leader as one of the "most committed and articulate proponents of his ideology".
"He was a strong voice in Parliament, whose interventions were keenly heard across the political spectrum," the prime minister wrote on Twitter.
In the micro-blogging site, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, "Saddened at the passing away of CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta ji. He will be remembered for his contribution to the nation as a Parliamentarian and trade union leader. Condolences to his family, friends and colleagues."
Leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha, Adhir Chowdhury said in his condolence message, the country has lost a true trade union leader.
"It is hard to believe that Gurudas Dasgupta is no more. He was a true trade union leader, a leader of the poorest of the poor," Chowdhury said.
Delhi Chief Minister Minister Arvind Kejriwal also condoled his death and said he would be remembered for his brilliant parliamentary track record and probity in public life.
"Passing away of veteran leader and trade unionist Gurudas Dasgupta is a big loss for the nation.
He will always be remembered for his brilliant parliamentary track record and probity in public life," Kejriwal said in a tweet.
Expressing grief over Dasgupta's demise, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik tweeted, "Saddened to learn about passing away of veteran Communist Party of India leader #GurudasDasgupta. He was a popular trade union leader and feisty parliamentarian...."
Left Front Chairman Biman Bose also condoled Dasgupta's death.
"His death has left a deep void in the Left movement of the state and the country," senior CPI(M) leader Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said.
Dasgupta's last rites will be held in the city on Friday.