KRISHAN KANT DIES IN OFFICE 

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By FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 27.07.02
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New Delhi, July 27 :    New Delhi, July 27:  Vice-President Krishan Kant died after a massive heart attack this morning at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, where he was brought after he complained of chest pain. He was 75. An emergency Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, declared a three-day national mourning. Kant will be accorded a state funeral tomorrow at the Nigambodh Ghat crematorium. After the meeting, information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj said no decision was taken on who would officiate till a new Vice-President is elected on August 12 and assumes office on August 20. "The Constitution is being studied," she added. There is no constitutional provision to appoint an interim Vice-President. The statute says election to the office of the Vice-President "shall be held as soon as possible" in the event of "his death". Article 68 (2) states: "An election to fill a vacancy in the office of the Vice-President occurring by reason of his death, resignation or removal or otherwise shall be held as soon as possible after the occurrence of the vacancy." The most material function performed by the Vice-President is presiding over the Rajya Sabha. Until a new Vice-President is elected, the deputy chairperson of the Upper House, Najma Heptullah, would chair the proceedings. Kant always made sure his relations with the treasury benches were cordial. But just a couple of days ago, he had pulled up parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan for keeping him in the dark about a sudden change in the House's business schedule. Mahajan was forced to apologise. One of his last public appearances was on Thursday when he read out the Hindi translation of the address delivered by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam after the scientist was sworn in President. "The untimely demise of Kant has left the entire nation in a state of shock," Vajpayee said. "It is an end of an era. He fought the Britishers first and later fought for democracy during the Emergency. Till yesterday he was with us and today we are condoling his death." Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf sent a condolence letter to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Among the important government engagements called off today were the all-party meeting on electoral reforms and an official dinner foreign minister Yashwant Sinha was to have hosted for US secretary of state Colin Powell. Government offices will remain closed on Monday. Official sources said the Cabinet, which is slated to discuss the rail division issue on Monday, has not changed its plans as of now.