The dreaded COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll on human life and is sparing none. Not even the VVIPs. Six sitting MLAs and three sitting MPs have succumbed to the virus till date. Among the MLAs were state Ministers as well. More than 85,000 people in India have died of COVID-19, so far.
The biggest name in COVID casualty in India has been former President Pranab Mukherjee. He underwent a brain surgery at Army’s R&R Hospital here, but it was the killer virus that caused a deterioration in his condition, and finally demise.
Among the sitting MPs who died due to the virus was newly-elected Rajya Sabha member of BJP, Ashok Gasti. The 55-year-old was diagnosed with severe COVID-19 pneumonia and admitted to Manipal Hospital on the Old Airport Road on September 2. What made his condition worse was multi-organ failure. Gasti was on life support when he passed away.
Earlier, Tirupati MP Balli Durga Prasad Rao died in a Chennai hospital. The 64-year-old Lok Sabha MP had comorbidities when he tested positive for Covid-19. The YSRCP leader was also a four-time MLA from Gudur in Nellore. He first won the Assembly poll when he was just 28.
Rao was the second sitting MP to have succumbed to the virus. The Congress MP from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, H Vasanthakumar, was the first Covid-19 casualty among sitting MPs. A shocked Prime Minister tweeted his picture with the MP to condole his death.
The 70-year-old too breathed his last in Chennai, at the Apollo Hospital.
After the death of the Working President of Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, the Apollo Hospitals said that the MP was treated in a critical care unit for severe COVID pneumonia. “Despite all active medical measures, his condition deteriorated gradually due to COVID complications and he passed away,” was how the Apollo Hospital summed up after the MP’s death.
It is just September and the pandemic far from being over, in the words of the WHO itself, India has already seen at least six MLAs lose the battle of life against the virus. From the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh to the Gangetic Bengal, the loss has been sudden and painful for their respective political parties and constituents.
In Uttar Pradesh, two Ministers lost their lives in a span of one month due to the virus. First, it was the only woman Minister in the Yogi Adityanath’s Cabinet — Uttar Pradesh’s Technical Education Minister Kamal Rani Varun — followed by cricketer turned Sainik Welfare and Civil Security Minister Chetan Chauhan.
As for Chauhan, he was put on a ventilator after his health deteriorated, affecting his kidneys. Meanwhile, Varun had comorbidities like diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and hypothyroidism, according to the hospital she was admitted in. Both fell victims to the virus.
Meanwhile, in Madhya Pradesh, at least one MLA has lost the battle against COVID-19. Congress MLA from Biaora in Rajgarh, Govardhan Dangi, died due to COVID-19 on September 15 in Gurugram’s Medanta Hospital at the age of 54.
In West Bengal, the situation is equally grim. Bengal lost two MLAs to COVID-19 — Samaresh Das, the Trinamool MLA from Egra in East Midnapore, and his party colleague Tamonash Ghosh from Falta constituency in South 24 Parganas district. While 76-year-old Das developed kidney complications, 60-year-old Ghosh’s death shocked many in the party.
Down south, Tamil Nadu saw one of the first COVID-related deaths of any lawmaker in the country. DMK MLA J Anbazhagan from Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni constituency died in June. He was 61. He was put on ventilator support on June 3 when his breathing problem worsened. His cardiac and chronic kidney diseases only contributed to his critical condition, resulting in his death.
Quite a few ex-lawmakers too died of Covid-19. Senior Congress leader of Leh and former Union Minister P Namgyal (83) died in June at SNM Hospital in Leh after contracting the virus. He was a three-time Ladakhi parliamentarian. He served in the Rajiv Gandhi Cabinet.
The same month, former Maharashtra MP Haribhau Jawale also died of COVID-19. This two- time MLA was the first senior politician to succumb to the novel coronavirus in Maharashtra.
In Pune, Sudharak Paricharak, a five-time MLA from Pandharpur, passed away at a private hospital this August. The 85-year-old was with the Nationalist Congress Party till recently. He contracted COVID-19 on August 5, following which he was admitted to a hospital.
Veteran CPI-M leader Shyamal Chakraborty also died just days after testing COVID positive. The 76-year-old had served as the West Bengal Transport Minister in the Left Front government in the state. Early August, he lost his battle against corona at a private hospital in Kolkata.
The list of such former leaders/public representatives of yesteryear’s goes on. Though authorities claim India’s death rate has been one of the lowest in the world, deaths of sitting lawmakers have forced the opposition to sound the alarm bell.
On Saturday, opposition parties raised concerns over their health safety in the Business Advisory Committee meeting, which forced the central government to agree to possibly curtail the Monsoon session of Parliament. Even on Saturday, Rajya Sabha Chair M Venkaiah Naidu warned members to adhere to ICMR protocols in the House for their own benefit.
By the time of filing this report, India had 85,619 deaths and more than 10 lakh active COVID cases. With infections showing no signs of slowing down and the killer virus not discriminating between the ‘aam aadmi’ and VVIPs, India’s politicians are a worried lot.
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])