Freedom fighter and West Bengal's senior most Left leader, Ashok Ghosh, who was state secretary of the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) for 65 years at a stretch, died here on Thursday. He was 92.
Ghosh had been on ventilator support since last month after being rushed to Apollo Hospital on February 2 following lower respiratory tract infection.
"At 11.25 a.m., he breathed his last," hospital superintendent Partho Bhattacharya said.
With a history of Addison disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Ghosh, during his stay at the hospital, had multiple episodes of renal shutdown and stopped responding to treatment in his final days.
He will be laid to rest at the Netaji Subhas Ashram in Suisa of Purulia district on March 6, as per his wish.
"His final journey will begin from the party office in the city on March 5 and he will be taken to the Netaji Subhas Ashram in Suisa, where he had built a school, college and a charitable dispensary.
"According to his wish, he will be buried at the Ashram," Bloc leader Naren Chatterjee said.
Born on July 2, 1923 in Chinsurah of Hooghly district, Ghosh joined India's freedom movement early in the 1940s after being deeply inspired by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's political philosophy and revolutionary ideals.
He participated in the Quit India movement of 1942 and was imprisoned for three years.
In 1948, Ghosh became national convenor of AIFB, founded by Bose, and took over as its West Bengal unit secretary in 1951 - retaining the post till his death.
He was also the party's all-India financial secretary.
In independent India, Ghosh participated in Goa freedom struggle, the movement against proposed unification of Bihar and Bengal, and was one of the spearheads of the food movement of 1959.
Among the founding members of the Left Front in West Bengal, Ghosh played a prominent role in formulating the policies of the coalition which ruled Bengal from 1977 to 2011.
However, he was critical of the Left Front over acquisition of farmland for setting up industries.
Ghosh also criticised the lack of transparency in the way the Left Front government acquired land in Singur in Hooghly district for the Tata Motors project.
At the same time, he tried to resolve the Singur tangle by calling all party meetings which were attended by then opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee.
The veteran leader called Tatas "traitors" after the auto-major relocated the industrial unit to Sanand in Gujarat in 2008.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed her grief over Ghosh's death.
"Saddened on the passing away of veteran politician Ashok Ghosh. He used to adore me a lot," she said.
Communist Party of India-Marxist state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said the Left movement had lost its guardian.
"He was the senior most leader of the state's Left movement. We are deeply saddened...
"He played a significant role in the Left movement, formation of the Left Front and keeping it intact for so many years. He was like a guardian to us."
Added Forward Bloc leader and former minister Hafiz Alam Sairani: "His death is a huge blow to the democratic movement in the state and the country."
"He was truly a mass leader who devoted his entire life for the people. Living his entire life in the party office, his only concern was welfare of the masses," former Bloc MP Barun Mukherjee said.
Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee said: "In him we have lost a guardian, a mass leader. We don't know how long will it take to fill the void created by his absence."
Ghosh's body was taken to a mortuary, from where it would be transferred to the AIFB state headquarters at 9 a.m. on Saturday and kept there till 1 p.m. for people to pay last respects. A procession would then be taken out till Netaji's Statue at Shyambazar five point crossing. Later, the body would be carried to Purulia after a brief stop at his ancestral house in Chinsurah.