Chandigarh: Congress’ Jalandhar MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary died on Saturday after suffering a cardiac arrest during the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Punjab’s Phillaur, following which the march was halted for 24 hours. He was 76.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who visited the grieving family, expressed shock over his death and described him as a hardworking leader and strong pillar of the party.
Chaudhary, a two-time MP, was walking with Rahul Gandhi during the yatra in Phillaur in Jalandhar when he fainted, according to senior party leader Partap Singh Bajwa, who was also marching with other participants.
Chaudhary was rushed to a private hospital in Phagwara in an ambulance where he was declared brought dead. Later, his body was shifted to his residence in Jalandhar.
Chaudhary had joined the yatra in Phillaur Saturday morning and after some time, he felt uneasiness and fainted.
Jothimani, Congress MP from Tamil Nadu’s Karur, who was also part of the yatra, said before collapsing, Chaudhary asked her “how are you Jothi”.
“Still I couldn’t get out of the shock. While we were walking, he stepped back and asked me with his trademark smile ‘how are you Jothi, this is my constituency’ and just got collapsed. It’s heart breaking to see that he is no more,” tweeted Jothimani.
The Gandhi-led yatra resumed from Ladhowal in Ludhiana on Saturday morning as part of its Punjab leg.
Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring told reporters that Chaudhary earlier raised slogans ‘Jodo Jodo, Bharat Jodo’ to welcome Gandhi.
He said Chaudhary was very excited about the yatra as it was passing through his area. “The Chaudhary family has been associated with the Congress for a very long time.”
Warring further said the family has decided to conduct the cremation at his native place at 11 am on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Congress general secretary, communications, Jairam Ramesh said the yatra has been suspended for 24 hours following Chaudhary’s demise. It will now start from Jalandhar on Sunday afternoon.
“Bharat Jodo Yatra will be suspended for 24 hours as a mark of respect for Santokh Singh Chaudhary, Congress MP from Jalandhar who passed away this morning. The Yatra will resume tomorrow afternoon from Khalsa College Ground, Jalandhar,” Ramesh said in a tweet.
He further said Gandhi’s press conference which was scheduled to take place at Jalandhar on January 15 will now be held in Hoshiarpur on January 17.
Chaudhary, a Dalit leader, belonged to a family of politicians. His father Master Gurbanta Singh was a Dalit stalwart, an educationist and a former Punjab agriculture minister.
Chaudhary’s elder brother Chaudhary Jagjit Singh was a local bodies minister. Chaudhary’s son Vikramjit Singh is a Congress MLA from the Phillaur assembly seat.
Chaudhary was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014 and 2019. He had been MLA twice in 1992 and 2002 and was also minister in the Congress government.
The Congress MP’s native village is Dhaliwal near Kartarpur in Jalandhar district.
Later, Gandhi visited the residence of Chaudhary and consoled his family members.
“Shocked by the sudden demise of Shri Santokh Singh Chaudhary. He was a down-to-earth and hardworking leader, a good person and a strong pillar of the Congress family, who dedicated his life to public service from the Youth Congress to Member of Parliament. I express my condolences to the bereaved family,” he said in a tweet.
Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit expressed his grief over the demise of the Jalandhar MP.
“I am shocked at the sudden, untimely demise of Chaudhary ji. He was a dedicated and hardworking leader. May his soul rest in peace,” said the governor.
Several Congress leaders visited the residence of Chaudhary in Jalandhar.
Punjab Congress chief Warring said, “Deeply saddened to inform you about the passing away of @INCPunjab MP Santokh Chaudhary ji. My deepest condolences to his family, colleagues, friends and supporters. I am in shock but Chaudhary Saab’s resolve will always be a source of inspiration to me.”
Several political leaders including those from rival parties expressed grief over the death of the Congress MP.
“I am deeply saddened at the untimely death of Congress Member of Parliament from Jalandhar, Santokh Singh Chaudhary,” AAP leader and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said in a tweet in Punjabi.
Former chief minister and former Congress leader Amarinder Singh also condoled Chaudhary’s death.
“Extremely saddened to hear about the sudden demise of MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary ji due to a heart attack today. My heartfelt condolences are with his entire family in their time of grief. May Waheguru Ji grant eternal peace to the departed soul,” said Singh in his tweet.
AAP MP Raghav Chadha said he was very saddened to learn about the death of Chaudhary.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal tweeted, “My condolences to his son @VikramjitMLA, family and followers. May Gurusahab bless his soul.”
The Punjab leg of the march began on Wednesday from Sirhind in Fatehgarh Sahib. The yatra took a break on Friday in the wake of Lohri festival.