K.C. Pant is dead; PM and Antony offer condolences

Last Updated: Thu, Nov 15, 2012 19:06 hrs

New Delhi: India's former defence minister and Planning Commission deputy chairman Krishna Chandra Pant died of a heart attack here Thursday. He was 81.

Pant died of a heart attack at his residence here Thursday morning, sources close to the family said.

He is survived by wife Ila, a former parliamentarian, and sons Ranjan and Sunil.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister A.K. Antony condoled Pant's death soon after the news came in.

Popularly known as K.C. Pant, he was the union defence minister between 1987 and 1989 when the Congress was in power with Rajiv Gandhi as the prime minister.

Pant was the son of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and former union home minister Govind Ballabh Pant.

Born in 1931 in Nainital, Pant studied at St. Joseph's College, did his Master's from Lucknow University and joined the Congress.

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

He became a Rajya Sabha member in 1978 and leader of the house 1979−80.

With 26 years as a parliamentarian, Pant 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) led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power, Pant joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In 2000, he was appointed deputy chairman of the Planning Commission by Vajpayee, who, as prime minister, was the panel's chairman.

Pant served in the position till 2004, when the NDA was voted out in the general elections.

Pant's wife, Ila Pant was elected to the 12th Lok Sabha in 1998 on a BJP ticket from Nainital.

In his condolence message to Ila Pant, the prime minister described K.C. Pant as "a leader who served our country and people with great distinction" and said in his passing away, the country "has lost an eminent public figure and an able administrator".

Defence Minister A.K. Antony also expressed "profound grief" and hailed Pant for steering the ministry at one of the most critical junctures when Indian forces were deployed in Sri Lanka on a peace−keeping mission.

"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 the 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 said.

Antony also noted that Pant bolstered the armed forces in a big way with acquisition of aircraft carrier INS Viraat, 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 setting up the first Coast Guard Air Station in Daman, Antony said.

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