Gurugram, Sep 28 (IANS) Senior Congress leader Makhan Lal Fotedar, who was a political advisor to Indira Gandhi and was seen as a staunch Gandhi family loyalist, died here on Thursday, his family said. He was 85.
A former Cabinet minister and once called the 'Chanakya' of Congress party, Fotedar had been ailing for some time. He is survived by his wife, three sons and two daughters.
He was shifted to Medicity Medanta Hospital from his house here in Sushant Lok area on June 20 after he complained of uneasiness. He died in the hospital on Thursday, a party leader told IANS.
The body was taken later to Fotedar's house here where people paid their last respects. He will be cremated in New Delhi on Friday, his son Arun Fotedar told IANS.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi offered their tributes.
"Fotedar was one of the guiding lights for the Congress and has left behind a void which can never be filled," Sonia Gandhi said.
She said that in an active political career spanning over five decades, Fotedar fought for the rights of the people and served them with utmost integrity.
Rahul Gandhi added: "Fotedarji was a pillar of strength in the Congress. His demise is a big loss to us."
Fotedar was born into a middle class Kashmiri Brahmin family at Mattan in Anantnag in the Kashmir Valley and was initiated into politics by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the first decade after India's independence.
He served as then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's political secretary from 1980 to 1984 until her assassination and was one of her confidants.
He was also one of the two signatories to her will and advised her on major issues. Fotedar was a permanent invitee to the Congress Working Committee, the party's highest decision making body.
He played a key role in ensuring that Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his mother after her assassination in October 1984. He also served as his political secretary for about three years and later joined his cabinet.
Fotedar again was one of the people instrumental in seeing that Sonia Gandhi took to active politics.
For long years, Fotedar was known as one of the most powerful men in the Congress, having access to Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. But unlike some other party veterans, he mostly preferred to remain low key.