Jaipur: Former vice president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who made an unsuccessful bid at becoming president two years ago, died at a hospital here Saturday. He was 86.
Shekhawat, who was a three-time Rajasthan chief minister, was admitted to the Sawai Man Singh Hospital here Thursday after he complained of uneasiness and breathing problems caused by a lung infection.
The BJP stalwart was put on a life support system early Saturday and was declared dead at 11.10 am, hospital sources said.
He is survived by his wife Suraj Kanwar and a daughter. Shekhawat`s wife and son-in-law Narpat Singh Rajvee, a BJP legislator, were present at the hospital.
Born October 23, 1923 in Khachriyawas village in Rajathan`s Sikar district, Shekhawat served as chief minister three times - from 1977 to 1980, 1990 to 1992, and 1993 to 1998.
After completing his high school, he could not pursue higher studies due to the untimely death of his father. He then worked as a farmer and later joined the police force.
Following the death of then vice president Krishan Kant, Shekhawat was elected to a five-year term. He was the country`s 11th vice president from August 2002 to July 2007.
In 2007 he lost the Presidential Election to Pratibha Patil.
Shekhawat will be cremated with full state honours Sunday, an official said. Three-day mourning was declared in Rajasthan.
"The funeral procession is slated to start from Shekawat`s residence at 10.00 am and will go to the BJP office, where the body would be kept for the people to pay their last respects," a family friend said.
The procession would pass through the main markets of Jaipur and the last rites will be conducted at the Chandpole cremation ground.
Popularly called "Rajasthan ka ek hi Singh" (The only Singh of Rajasthan), he was one of the most popular politicians of the state. He joined politics in 1952 and was a member of first Rajasthan Legislative Assembly.
"He used to love to meet people, talk to them and listen to their problems on a regular basis...It was his routine", said Arun Chaturvedi, president of BJP`s Rajasthan unit.
"Rajasthan will miss a leader of his stature," he added.
Shekhawat was one of the closest confidantes of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee but his appeal cut across the political spectrum. He was held in high esteem for being steadfast to his principles.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid glowing tributes to Shekhawat, saying he "excelled in all positions he held".
In a message to his wife Suraj Kanwar Shekhawat, the prime minister said: "Shekhawatji`s persona was one of rare charisma. Together with a few others, he defined a whole era in the Bharatiya Janata Party. His many qualities of head and heart included a liberal outlook and generosity of spirit. As a social worker and a public figure, he always stood up for his principles."
Along with Vajpayee and LK Advani, Shekhawat played a seminal role in building the Bharatiya Jan Sangh and later the BJP.
"My recollection of him starts from the first election in 1952 when eight of our candidates won. Bhairon Singh-ji proved his ability and competence every time," Advani recalled.
Vice President Hamid Ansari also condoled the demise of his predecessor.
"Shri Shekhawat had a glorious record of service to the country and the people. He earned the respect and admiration of the people for his dedication, sense of public service, and innate simplicity," Ansari said.