Nagpur (Maharashtra): Former MP Jambuwantrao Dhote, one of the earliest and oldest protagonists of the separate Vidarbha state movement, passed away at his home in Yavatmal on Saturday following a massive cardiac arrest, his family said.He was 78 and is survived by his wife Vijaya and two daughters, Kranti and Jwala.
Known as the 'Vidarbha Simha' (Lion of Vidarbha), Dhote complained of severe chest pain around 1 a.m., and was rushed to the Vasantrao Naik Hospital where he breathed his last during treatment around 4.30 a.m.
Dhote was the son-in-law of veteran Congress leader, the late barrister Ramrao Adik who was a former deputy chief minister. During his political career spanning over five decades, Dhote passionately followed the revolutionary leader Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and espoused the case of a separate state of Vidarbha to be carved out of Maharashtra with Nagpur as its capital.
He had won the Lok Sabha elections twice and was also an MLA for five times from different parties including the Forward Bloc, Shiv Sena and Congress.
At the height of the Janata Party rule at the centre, Dhote entered into a strategic political and electoral alliance with the Congress in 1978, then headed by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
In the ensuing Assembly elections his party, Forward Bloc reaped the benefits of the alliance with Congress by bagging 22 seats from his bastion Vidarbha, which comprises 11 districts of eastern Maharashtra.
In 1980, Dhote formally joined the Congress and was elected MP from Nagpur, and several years later, he quit the Congress to flirt briefly with the Shiv Sena and later launched his own party, the Vidarbha Janata Congress in September 2002.
Condoling Dhote's demise, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis paid tributes to his long stint as a legislator and parliamentarian when he always raised the issues pertaining to the people of Vidarbha.
"He was an inspiring force for the people and farmers of Vidarbha, the progress and development of the entire region, which he had made a mission of his life," Fadnavis, himself hailing from Nagpur said.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet: "The 'Lion of Vidarbha' J. Dhote passes away. My heartfelt condolences on his demise."
State Congress President Ashok Chavan mourned the death of Dhote and described him as "a staunch leader of the farmers and backward sections of society who fought for them inside the legislature and outside."
Congress Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said in a tweet that the state has "lost a dedicated leader who fought for the farmers".
Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti President Kishore Tiwari said he was "the first leader of masses from Vidarbha" and said the real tribute to Dhote would be to create a separate Vidarbha state forthwith.
Dhote's last rites will be performed in Yavatmal on Sunday morning.