Kolkata, Nov 13, 2010 (Calcutta Tube/IBNS) Former West Bengal Chief Minister and Congress leader Siddhartha Shankar Ray passed away on Saturday evening at his south Kolkata residence. He was 90 and is survived by his wife Maya Ray.
He was suffering from kidney problem and was suffering from protracted illness. He underwent dialysis of late. He breathed his last at 6-50 pm.
A chief minister of West Bengal from 1972 to 1977, which included the turbulent Naxalite movement period of Bengal, he later became the Governor of Punjab state during the Khalistan movement.
The well known barrister and a close friend of his late political rival and communist leader Jyoti Basu, he was also the ambassador of India to the United States of America.
“He used to tell me that he wants to see change in West Bengal, but always had the fear that he would not live to see that change,” said a grieving Trinamool Congress leader and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee who rushed to his residence.
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee remembered him for his political honesty.
“We might have differed on issues, but his ability as an administrator and honesty as a politician was unquestionable,” said Mukherjee.
The ruling Left Front leaders condoled his death.
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee condoled his death saying: “I am shocked and convey my sympathies to his wife and all members of the bereaved family.”
Ray’s father, Sudhir Kumar Ray, was a noted barrister of Calcutta High Court and mother Aparna Devi was the eldest daughter of the nationalist leader ‘Deshbandhu’ Chittaranjan Das and Basanti Devi.
Ray was educated at the prestigious Presidency College of Kolkata, now a university, and then was called to the Bar in England.
While in college, he was captain of the Presidency College cricket team. Cricket was his passion since last days and he was involved with the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).
He began his political career as a Cabinet Minister in West Bengal Chief Minister Bidhan Chandra Ray’s cabinet in West Bengal.
He was also a Union Cabinet Minister of Education and Youth Services and was considered a confidant of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
He became the West Bengal Chief Minister soon after the Bangladesh War in 1972 and was faced with the massive problem of resettling over a million refugees in various parts of the state.
He was the Governor of Punjab from between 1986 and 1989. In 1991, Ray was sent as India’s Ambassador to the United States. He remained in the USA from 1992 to 1996. His tenure in Washington was widely considered to be very successful.