Jalandhar: Congress Lok Sabha MP from Jalandhar, Santokh Singh Chaudhary, died of a heart attack during the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Phillaur on Saturday morning, January 14.
He was walking along with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi when he suddenly collapsed.
Chaudhary, 77, was immediately rushed to a private hospital in Phagwara, where he was declared brought dead. Gandhi also rushed to the hospital after hearing about the MP’s sudden demise.
According to a PTI report, Punjab Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring said that the cremation will be performed on Sunday, January 15, and the yatra has been suspended till then.
Chaudhary is survived by his wife, Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, former principal of Government Sports College, Jalandhar, and their son Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary, who is the sitting MLA from Phillaur (reserve) seat. He won his maiden election in the 2022 assembly polls from the home turf of his father.
Chaudhary was a two-time MP from Jalandhar and won consecutively in the 2014 and 2019 elections. He contested election seven times, out of which, he won three assembly polls and two general elections. He was a cabinet minister from Phillaur in 1992, 1997, and 2002. He lost two assembly elections in 2007 and 2012.
His elder brother, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, was also a cabinet minister in the previous Congress governments in Punjab.
His family is one of the prominent names in Punjab’s Dalit politics.
Chaudhary’s father, Master Gurbanta Singh, had served as the education and agriculture minister and contributed immensely in providing education in the rural areas. The family owns and runs Master Gurbanta Singh Memorial Janta College at Kartarpur, Jalandhar.
Talking to The Wire, a family friend of the Jalandhar MP, Sunil Katyal, who was present during the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Phillaur, said, “Santokh Singh Chaudhary was standing on the stage and raising slogans when Rahul Gandhi arrived. We got down from the stage and welcomed him in the presence of some religious figures, after which Chaudhary joined the yatra. At around 8.45 am while walking with Gandhi, he suddenly collapsed. Gandhi also turned back to see what went wrong, as people rushed towards Chaudhary. Before anybody could figure out, he was immediately rushed to a private hospital in Phagwara, near Jalandhar, where he was declared dead.”
“Everybody is shocked and in utter disbelief at Santokh Chaudhary’s sudden demise,” he added.
Amrit Bhosle, the media coordinator of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Jalandhar, who was also present in Phillaur, said, “Chaudhary had hardly crossed some ten steps, when he fell down. Initially, nobody understood but when he was rushed to the hospital and the news of his death spread, everybody was shocked. The cremation will take place at their ancestral village Dhaliwal Kadian, Jalandhar.”
Expressing condolences, Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann tweeted in Punjabi: “I am deeply saddened by the untimely death of Congress Member of Parliament from Jalandhar, Santokh Singh Chaudhary. May his soul rest in peace.”
Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal also tweeted: “Saddened to learn about the passing away of Jalandhar MP Sh. Santokh Singh Chaudhary Ji. My condolences to his son Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary, family and followers. May GuruSahab bless his soul.”
Saddened to learn about the passing away of Jalandhar MP Sh. Santokh Chaudhary Ji. My condolences to his son @VikramjitMLA, family and followers. May Gurusahab bless his soul. pic.twitter.com/i4pTDhWOSY
— Sukhbir Singh Badal (@officeofssbadal) January 14, 2023
Former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh wrote on Twitter: “Extremely saddened to hear about the sudden demise of MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary ji due to a heart attack today. My heartfelt condolences are with his entire family in their time of grief. May Waheguru Ji grant eternal peace to the departed soul.”
Extremely saddened to hear about the sudden demise of MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary ji due to a heart attack today.
My heartfelt condolences are with his entire family in their time of grief. May Waheguru Ji grant eternal peace to the departed soul. pic.twitter.com/LJqQA8avAo
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) January 14, 2023
Former MLA from Jalandhar West (reserve) seat Sushil Kumar Rinku, who was preparing for Gandhi’s visit to Jalandhar on Sunday, said, “I could not take part in today’s yatra in Phillaur as I was busy making arrangements [for Sunday]. It is a huge loss to the party. His rich political experience and astuteness was badly needed in the Congress. We are deeply saddened with his sudden demise.”
Former MLA from Jalandhar Central, Rajinder Beri, recalled Chaudhary as a sober and smart politician. “We were all geared up for Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in Jalandhar on Sunday. The sudden demise of Chaudhary has left a void in the Congress, which cannot be filled. Besides his affable nature, he remained accessible to people, which is why he enjoyed successful political innings.”
Jagdish Samrai, the convener and media in-charge of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (Scheduled Castes department) said that Chaudhary actively led yatra in the state. It had entered Punjab from Fatehgarh Sahib on January 11.
“It was too cold that day and he was one among the many politicians, who actively participated in the yatra. Even today, he was perfectly fine but it is shocking that he left so all of sudden,” he said.
“Whether the Congress remained in power or not, he never left the party, a trait which is badly missing in today’s league of politicians. As a Ravidassia community leader, he made a name for himself by raising his voice for students belonging to the Dalit community, women, and social causes. It’s a big loss for the Ravidassia community in Punjab,” he added.
SAD leader Pawan Kumar Tinu said, “Political differences apart, Chaudhary always maintained cordial ties with everybody. As a senior politician and someone who was well-known, his death has left a void in Punjab politics. We are deeply saddened at his untimely demise.”