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    Former union minister Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil dead

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    Veteran Congress leader and former Union Minister Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil passed away at his home following a long illness. He was 84.

    Vikhe-Patil is survived by his wife, two daughters and three sons, including Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil.

    Ailing since sometime, he breathed his last at his home in Loni-Pravara on Friday evening.

    Considered a pillar of the cooperatives movement in the state and his family credited with launching Asia’s first sugar cooperative factory in Loni, Vikhe-Patil had been elected member of parliament eight times from Ahmednagar.

    Leaving the Congress to join the Shiv Sena briefly, he served as Minister of State for Finance and later as Minister for Heavy Industries in then Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee’s government.

    He also made significant contributions in the field of irrigation, agriculture and education, especially for people in the rural areas of the state and was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2010.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “pained” by the death of Vikhe-Patil.

    “Vikhe-Patil was a mass leader whose work in the agriculture, rural development, education and cooperatives will be remembered,” Modi said in a tweet.

    Describing Vikhe-Patil as “a towering leader in the cooperation movement with remarkable knowledge of agriculture, irrigation and rural development,” Maharashtra Governor C. V. Rao said the state lost a visionary leader and a great human being.

    In his condolence message to Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, Rao said: “Vikhe-Patil lived a spartan life and maintained his contacts with the masses till his end. The numerous social and educational institutions created by him are a testimony to his vision and commitment for the betterment of society and farmers.”

    Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said Vikhe-Patil made far-reaching contributions to the agriculture, irrigation and educational sectors of the state and his cooperative movement remain a model of for allround development of the rural areas.

    “He knew the pulse of rural development and carried out his various activities keeping the common village folk as the point of focus, and he gave priority to rural development during his tenure as a union minister. We have lost a senior and respected leader of the masses,” he said in a message.

    Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar said he was “saddened by the demise of the former union minister and committed politician”.

    Congress leader Sanjay Dutt said “the death of Vikhe-Patil, a popular leader of farmers and cooperative movement leader and Ais an irreparable loss for the state”.

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