K.C. Pant is dead; Antony mourns death

Last Updated: Thu, Nov 15, 2012 13:00 hrs

New Delhi, Nov 15 (IANS) India's former defence minister and Planning Commission deputy chairman Krishna Chandra Pant died Thursday morning here. He was 81.

He is survived by wife Ila Pant, a former MP herself, and two sons - Ranjan and Sunil.

On hearing about "the sad passing away" of Pant, Defence Minister A.K. Antony expressed "profound grief" and hailed him for steering the ministry at one of the most critical junctures of history when Indian forces were deployed in strife-torn Sri Lanka on a peace-keeping mission.

Popularly known as K.C. Pant, he was India's defence minister between 1987 and 1989, when the Congress party was in power under the prime ministership of Rajiv Gandhi.

Pant was the son of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and also the country's home minister late Govind Ballabh Pant.

Born in 1931 in Nainital, Uttarakhand (then part of Uttar Pradesh), Pant studied at St. Joseph's College there. He later did his masters degree from Lucknow University, from where he joined the Congress Party as a member.

He was first elected to the Lok Sabha (lower house) in 1962 at the age of 31. He continued his winning streak in subsequent Lok Sabha polls too in 1967 and 1971, and again was elected to the house in 1989.

He was elected to the Rajya Sabha (council of states) in 1978 and was the leader of the house in 1979-80.

With a total of 26 years as member of both houses of parliament, he served as minister of defence, finance, steel and heavy engineering, home affairs, electronics, atomic energy and science and technology in the union government.

Pant was also the first chairman of the advisory board on energy.

In 1998, when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Pant joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In 2000, he was appointed the deputy chairman of the planning commission of India by Vajpayee, who as prime minister was the chairman of the panel then. He served in the position till 2004, when the Vajpayee government was voted out in the general polls to the 14th Lok Sabha.

His wife, Ila Pant, too is a former MP, having been elected to the 12th Lok Sabha in 1998 on the BJP ticket from Nainital seat.

Antony, in his condolence message, said: "The contribution of Pant will be fondly remembered by the countrymen. Pant steered the ministry at one of the most critical junctures of history as the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was deployed in Sri Lanka as a stepping stone to the tortuous journey for peace in the island nation."

"The Indian troops were also deployed at short notice in Maldives to abort a coup attempt, in a clear manifestation of our commitment to the promotion of peace and stability in South Asian region," he recalled.

He also noted that Pant bolstered the Indian armed forces in a big way with the acquisition of the country's flagship aircraft carrier INS Viraat, the erstwhile HMS Hermes of the British Royal Navy, and Russian-origin MiG-29 combat aircraft among many others during his tenure as the defence minister.

He was also instrumental in the setting up of the first Coast Guard Air Station at Daman, Antony said, adding: "May his soul rest in peace."

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