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All-party salute to Cong’s Barkatda
- Leaders pay homage, call off campaigns

Calcutta, April 14: Veteran Congress leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury died at a private hospital today. He was 80.

The MP from Malda is survived by his brother Abu Hashem and sister Ruby Noor, both Congress legislators.

The hospital’s medical bulletin said: “Choudhury succumbed to acute pancreatitis with multi-organ failure on pre-existing essential hyper tension, permanent pacemaker, ischemic heart disease, mild renal impairment and hyper uricaemia.”

The leader, fondly called Barkatda by his Congress colleagues and friends, was on ventilator since April 3 after being diagnosed with pancreatitis and renal complications.

Several Congress leaders, including information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and former state party chief Somen Mitra, rushed to the hospital after hearing of Ghani Khan’s death.

Former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, in whose cabinet Ghani Khan was power minister from 1972 to 1977, also visited the hospital.

The body was first taken to Noor’s Beckbagan home from where it was brought to Bidhan Bhavan, the state Congress headquarters. It will be flown to Malda tomorrow morning for burial.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who sent her condolences to Noor, will arrive tomorrow morning, while state party chief Pranab Mukherjee landed at Calcutta airport tonight.

Cutting across party lines, leaders thronged the Congress office today. Left Front chairman Biman Bose, CPM MP Mohammad Salim and Trinamul Congress MLA Saugata Roy were among those who paid homage to Ghani Khan.

Former chief minister Jyoti Basu said he was “deeply grieved” by the Congress leader’s death. “Ghani Khan was younger to me and I knew him for quite a long time.”

Malda wore a bandh-like look with all shops and business establishments staying shut.

The state Congress today cancelled all its election campaigns across Bengal. “It was an irreparable loss not only for Congressmen but for people of Bengal as well. It is difficult to fill up the void created by Barkatda’s demise,” said Mitra.

The Left Front, too, called off its rallies in Malda district today.

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