ML Fotedar was part of Rajiv Gandhi's cabinet as an union minister
Makhan Lal Fotedar, a veteran Congress leader who worked closely with three generations of the Gandhi family, died at a hospital in Gurgaon on Thursday. He was 85.
Hailing from Kashmir, Mr Fotedar was introduced to politics by Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1950s. He gradually strengthened his position in the Congress to become one of the most powerful leaders in the party.
In 1967, Mr Fotedar won a seat in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, representing the constituency of Pahalgam till 1977. A trusted aide of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, he secured the position of her political secretary in 1980.
After her death, Mr Fotedar also served as former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's political secretary for three years. Mr Gandhi went on to induct Mr Fotedar into his Cabinet as a union minister. He was also a two-time member of the Rajya Sabha.
Through his time with the party, Mr Fotedar was a member of the powerful Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party's highest decision-making body. Till now, he remained a permanent invitee to the CWC.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, while expressing her sadness on his death, said, "In his long and active political career spanning over five decades, he tirelessly fought for the rights of people and served them with utmost integrity."
Ms Gandhi added that Fotedar was "one of the guiding lights for the Congress party and has left behind a void which can never be filled."
Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to express his condolences to the Fotedar family.
"Fotedar ji was a pillar of strength in the Congress party. His demise is a big loss to us. My condolences to his family in this hour of grief," Mr Gandhi said on Twitter.
Mr Fotedar was known to be critical of the political abilities of Mr Gandhi and his mother. In a political memoir titled "The Chinar Leaves" which was released in October 2015, Mr Fotedar expressed his reservations about the party leadership.
"Rahul Gandhi's leadership is unacceptable to this country and Sonia Gandhi has her best years behind her," he had said, predicting that the party was rudderless and would challenge the Gandhis' leadership. "It saddens me that the Nehru-Indira legacy has reached a cul-de-sac." (With inputs from PTI)