Uttarakhand minister Prakash Pant died in the US on Wednesday after a prolonged illness. The 58-year-old had been in the US for some time for treatment.
Pant was Uttarakhand's minister for parliamentary affairs and finance besides being in charge of a host of other portfolios. He was a BJP lawmaker from Pithoragarh in the state assembly and was considered one of the most important and knowledgable members of Rawat's cabinet.
He was one of the probables for the post of chief minister when the BJP swept to power in the state in 2017.
At a very young age, Pant was made the first speaker of Uttarakhand Assembly when the state was created out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000. Initially a pharmacist, his political career started in 1977.
He became a member of the Legislative Council of Uttar Pradesh for the first time in 1988 and represented Pithoragarh in the state assembly for two consecutive terms in 2002 and 2007. He lost the seat in 2012 but bounced back in 2017 reclaiming it from the Congress.
Condolences poured in as the news of Pant''s death spread.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first to express his condolences.
"Anguished by the passing away of Uttarakhand Finance Minister Shri Prakash Pant. His organisational skills helped strengthen the BJP and administrative skills contributed to Uttarakhand's progress. My thoughts are with his family and supporters," he said in a tweet.
Anguished by the passing away of Uttarakhand's Finance Minister Shri Prakash Pant. His organisational skills helped strengthen the BJP and administrative skills contributed to Uttarakhand's progress. My thoughts are with his family and supporters. Om Shanti.- Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 5, 2019
Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat expressed deep grief at Pant''s demise, describing it as a personal loss.
"For me it is like losing a younger brother. The void created by his passing away will always hurt. His ability to respond to the sharpest of attacks by the opposition in the state assembly with a disarming smile will remain lodged in our memory forever.
"He played a great role in giving a direction to the development of the state after its creation. It is a great loss for the state and the BJP," Mr Rawat said.
He prayed for peace to the departed soul and fortitude to his family to bear the immense loss.
A three-day state mourning has been declared, a CMO official said.