Featured Image: An unwell Santosh Mohan Dev with his MP daughter Sushmita Dev after having cast his vote in the 2016 Assembly polls in Silchar (left) and Dev in sound health in a file photo from early 2000’s (right).
By A Newsman
Silchar, 02 August: THREE-time former Union minister and seven-time Congress MP, Santosh Mohan Dev breathed his last in Silchar in Barak Valley today morning.
He was 83 and is survived by wife and four daughters. His youngest daughter, Sushmita Dev, is the sitting Lok Sabha MP from Silchar, and is a member of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s core team.
Dev was keeping unwell for the past four years and was mostly confined to his residence at Tarapur in Silchar as he could not move without wheelchair due to frail health. Occasionally, his MP daughter took him to New Delhi for treatment.
The former minister was admitted to the private Valley Hospital and Research Centre at Meherpur in downtown Silchar on 30 July after his condition deteriorated and he complained of severe breathing trouble. He was kept on life support at the hospital for the past three days, but succumbed to the illness at 6.06 am today.
His mortal remains have been kept in the hospital morgue for cremation to be performed tomorrow. Sources close to the family said that the cremation has been deferred so to facilitate the presence of All India Congress Committee leaders. Rahul Gandhi might himself come down to Silchar to attend the cremation, a source added.
“With an illustrious pol career of five decades, former Union minister Santosh Mohan Devji was a people’s leader. My condolences on his passing,” Rahul tweeted on hearing about the demise of Dev.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has offered condolences in a tweet: “My thoughts are with the family and supporters of Shri Santosh Mohan Dev in this hour of grief: PM.”
President Ram Nath Kovind’s tweet reads: “Heartfelt condolences on demise of ex-Union Minister & MP Santosh Mohan Dev. A loss for his family, for Assam & for India.”
Dev’s own party, Indian National Congress said a tweet “We condole the demise of Shri Santosh Mohan Dev. A leader of great stature, he will be remembered for his contribution to the people.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also offered her condolences. “Saddened at the passing of Sontosh Mohon Dev. I knew him for many, many years. My deepest condolences to his family, friends & supporters,” Banerjee, who is now in Siliguri, has tweeted. Banerjee and Dev were ministers in PV Narsima Rao’s Cabinet that was sworn in in 1991.
Santosh Mohan Dev was born in Silchar in 1934. His father Satindra Mohan Dev was an MLA in the Assam Assembly after Independence; he was also the chairman of Silchar Municipality.
Santosh Mohan studied at GC College in Silchar and did MBA from an institute in the UK. He was good at lawn tennis and was a certified football referee.
He was first elected to the Lok Sabha from Silchar in 1980, and was re-elected from the seat four more times in 1984, 1996, 1999, and 2004. Dev was also elected to the Lok Sabha from Tripura twice in 1989 and 1991.
He served as the Union minister of state for tourism and communications from 1986-1988, as Union minister of state for home affairs from 1988-1989, as union minister of state for steel (independent charge) from 1991-1996, and Cabinet minister for heavy industries from 2004-2009.
Dev lost the Lok Sabha polls from Silchar in 2009 to BJP’s Kavindra Purkayastha and took a backseat in politics ever since. His daughter Sushmita wrested back the seat from Purkayastha in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Dev was the architect of the Congress and Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti coalition that came to power in Tripura in 1988 defeating the Left Front government.
That election was highly controversial because of the massive rigging and violence, which the Left credited to Dev. So much so that the Left labelled Dev as Santrash (terror) Mohan Dev and this eventually became his popular identity in Tripura.
Coming back to his home constituency Silchar, Dev was often accused of not doing much for the region despite him being Union ministers for several times and an influential Congress leader from Assam.
He had, however, renamed the Silchar Stadium and the Civil Hospital after his later father and provided funds in their redevelopment. He also provided funds to set up a degree college named after his father at Lakhipur ~ about 32 km from Silchar. The college is yet to get UGC recognition even after two decades.
On the family front, Dev married off three of his daughters to non-Bengali business families belonging from elsewhere in India. His fourth daughter Sushmita is still a spinster.
Dev was often accused of promoting his own coterie in the Congress and his own family members. In 2006, he got the Congress to nominate wife Bithika Dev for the Assembly polls from Silchar Assembly segment and she won the seat. Bithika was also the chairperson of Silchar Municipality during the same period.
In 2009, their daughter Sushmita Dev, who was not into politics until then, contested the Silchar Municipality election, and on winning, became its chairperson. In 2011, Sushmita was given Congress ticket to contest the Assembly polls from Silchar and she won.
Sushmita was then named a Congress candidate from Silchar Lok Sabha seat in 2014 and her victory necessitated a by-poll for Silchar Assembly segment. Her mother, Bithika, was given Congress ticket, and this time she lost to BJP.
But despite this, she was nominated to contest from the seat again in 2016, only to suffer a miserable defeat to BJP.