New Delhi: Former union minister KC Pant, who had served under late prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and switched to BJP in the late 1990s, died here on Thursday. He was 81.
The son of Govind Ballabh Pant, a former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and union minister under late prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Krishan Chandra Pant is survived by his wife and former MP Ila Pant and two sons.
Pant, who had held the portfolios of Defence, Finance, Energy and Steel among others, was ailing for some time and breathed his last at 8:30 am.
He was cremated shortly later without any state honours, a privilege normally given to former union ministers, apparently because the family wanted it to be a private affair.
Soon after hearing about Pant`s death, Defence Minister AK Antony rushed to his residence to pay homage but after reaching there he was told that the body has been taken for cremation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was "deeply saddened" at the death of Pant, who served the country and people with great distinction in his long political career.
"The country has lost an eminent public figure and an able administrator.... In his passing away, the country has lost an eminent public figure and an able administrator," Singh said.
Pant, known for his persuasive skills, played the role of negotiator during the separate Telangana agitation in the 1970s and was instrumental in reaching of an agreement called `Mulki Rules` that gave prominence recruitment of locals and ended the agitation.
Pant was Defence Minister in Rajiv Gandhi`s Cabinet when the CAG report on Bofors Howitzer acquisition was tabled in Parliament and defended the government during those troubled days.
However, he switched loyalties to BJP in 1998 when it emerged as the ruling party. His wife successfully contested from Nainital Lok Sabha constituency on a BJP ticket.
Pant himself became Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission in 2000 under the then prime minister AB Vajpayee who was the chairman of the body.
Condoling the death of Pant, Antony said his contribution will be "fondly remembered" as he steered the ministry at one of the most critical junctures of history.
"Pant steered the Ministry at one of the most critical junctures of history as the Indian Peace Keeping Forces were deployed in Sri Lanka as a stepping stone to the tortuous journey for peace in the island nation.
"The Indian troops were also deployed at short notice in Maldives to abort a coup attempt, in a clear manifestation of our commitment to the promotion of peace and stability in South Asian Region," he said.
Antony also remembered Pant as one who bolstered the armed forces in a big way with the acquisition of country`s flagship aircraft carrier INS Viraat and MIG-29 aircraft among many other acquisitions.
"He was also instrumental in the setting up of the first Coast Guard Air Station at Daman," Antony said.
Born in 1931 in Nainital, Pant was a post graduate in science and joined Congress to enter politics. Pant first got elected to Lok Sabha in 1962 and was reelected in 1967, 1971 and 1989.
Pant, who later became the Chairman of Tenth Finance Commission, was also elected to Rajya Sabha in 1978 and was Leader of the House during 1979-1980.