Mumbai: Veteran Congress leader Murli Deora died here early Monday after a brief illness. President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders from various parties mourned his death while Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and other senior leaders reached the city to pay their last respects.
Deora, 77, died after a brief illness around 3.25 a.m., said state party spokesperson Sachin Sawant.
He is survived by his wife Hema and two sons, former central minister Milind Deora and Mukund.
Upon hearing the news, Congress leaders, activists and grassroots workers, besides top businessmen and industrialists, reached the Deora residence in south Mumbai to pay homage.
In his condolence message, President Mukherjee said it "was with profound sorrow that I learnt of the sad demise of Murli Deora, an esteemed colleague and long-standing friend. As a union minister, distinguished parliamentarian, veteran leader and a committed Congressman, Deora had served the nation with dedication".
"He leaves behind many memories of his amiable nature and organisational skills. The people of India, especially his home state Maharashtra, shall value his significant contribution towards growth and progress in our country," he said.
Prime Minister Modi described him as a leader with a "warm nature".
"A dedicated leader, Murli Deora`s warm nature made him popular across party lines. News of his demise is saddening. May his soul rest in peace," he said in his message.
Sonia Gandhi said the entire party stands with the Deora family in this hour of grief.
Deora had been a pillar of support both to the party and the Gandhi family since the days of Indira Gandhi and her son and successor Rajiv Gandhi.
Both houses of parliament were adjourned Monday after paying tributes to Deora, who was a member of Lok Sabha for four terms and serving his third term in Rajya Sabha.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh described Deora as "a popular Congress leader who played an active role in national politics".
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh termed Deora`s demise as "a personal loss".
"Murli bhai is no more. A great patriot and a Congress stalwart, we shall miss his wit and his sane advice," he said in a message.
Deora`s body was taken to the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee headquarters - which he lorded over for 22 years - and was kept for public `darshan` for a couple of hours to enable party workers and admirers pay their last respects.
Sonia Gandhi, her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi, her daughter Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra, and senior party leaders Ahmed Patel, Motilal Vora, Anand Sharma, Mohan Prakash, Ajay Maken, Gurudas Kamat, former state chief ministers and other city and state party leaders paid homage to Deora.
Senior politicians cutting across paty lines offered condolences and paid homage to Deora, among them Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray.
Entering politics in the mid-1960s, Deora served as a mayor of Mumbai in 1977-78, and later headed the party`s city unit from 1981-2003.
Later he was also a four-time Lok Sabha MP from Mumbai South, later served as union minister for petroleum and natural gas, among other important assignments, before being elected to the Rajya Sabha.
An economics graduate with a strong pro-US temperament, Mumbai-born Deora had excellent personal relations with top political and business leaders, celebrities and media personalities all over the country.
A highly resourceful person, especially concerning financial matters, he was considered close to several top industrial czars, both in India and abroad.
He was also renowned for his organizational and political skills which helped the Congress develop a strong base in Mumbai and kept the chief rival Shiv Sena under a leash for many decades, though he enjoyed a close rapport with its founder Bal Thackeray.
Deora`s mortal remains were carried by his sons Milind and Mukund, and others in a huge funeral procession which started from the MRCC headquarters to Girgaum and consigned to the flames late evening at Chandanwadi crematorium.