Shantaram Naik, Goa’s ‘original’ Congress leader, dies

Panaji, June 9 (IANS) Known for his steady flow of incisive press notes and, therefore, invariably billed as a ‘paper tiger’ by rivals in the BJP, former state Congress president Shantaram Naik died on Saturday after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 72 and is survived by wife Beena and son Archit.

Naik, who relinquished charge as the state Congress president in April, died on the way to a hospital in the morning.

Naik’s wife is the sister of high profile criminal lawyer Ujjwal Nikam who, as special public prosecutor, was responsible for pleading the Maharastra government’s case against the accused in the 1993 Mumbai terror attacks and 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi said: “I’m sorry to hear about the passing away of Shri Shantaram Naik… who played an important role in the battle for Goa’s statehood.”

“My condolences to his family in their time of grief. May his soul rest in peace.”

In the ultra treacherous, double-crossing, party swapping world of Goa’s politics, where a majority of Congress leaders, both youngsters and veterans, have brazenly walked in and out of political parties, Naik was a rare breed who stayed put in the party and was one of the rare few “original” Congressmen.

His faith in the party paid off over time with the Congress appointing him as the state president on numerous occasions. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha twice and Lok Sabha once in 1984.

“Shantaram Naik played his part as a Congressman in the development and progress in the state of Goa. Shantaram has worked for the party even to his last breath, because he was a state Congress president just a few months back. We have lost a great Congressman,” former Chief Minister and Congress MLA Luizinho Faleiro told IANS.

Not a mass-based politician, Naik, however, was known for his steady stream of media conferences and press notes on issues related to communalism and fascism, which often resulted in the Opposition, especially the BJP leadership in Goa, dubbing him as a “paper tiger”.

Perhaps Naik’s greatest contribution to the state as a politician was his role in granting of statehood to Goa, the country’s smallest state in 1987, by moving a resolution in the Lok Sabha when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister.

The incident earned him the sobriquet ‘Hero of the Zero Hour’. “His contribution for Goa’s statehood and inclusion of Konkani language in the 8th schedule of the Constitution will always be remembered,” Goa Congress spokesperson Amarnath Panjikar has said.

BJP’s South Goa MP Narendra Savoikar also expressed sadness at Naik’s sudden death. “As colleagues, though from different political parties, we shared and discussed on various issues concerning out state,” Savoikar said.

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