Kolkata (IANS): Former Leader of Opposition in West Bengal Assembly and a founding member of the Trinamool Congress, Pankaj Banerjee, passed away late on Friday.
Banerjee, 71, a three-time legislator, is survived by his wife and daughter. A product of the student movement, Banerjee joined the Congress in the 1960s, and won his first election from the Tollygunge constituency in South Kolkata in 1972.
A marine engineer by profession, he later won from the same constituency in 1996 on a Congress ticket, and in 2001 as a candidate of the Trinamool Congress.
With the Trinamool emerging as the largest opposition party in 2001, Banerjee became the leader of the opposition, and served in that capacity till 2006.
However, he surprisingly announced his retirement from politics in 2006, in the run up to the assembly polls, citing poor health.
But many still believe that Banerjee had called it quits over some differences with party supremo Mamata Banerjee.
The leader’s death, however, saw a high drama. After a private hospital announced his death, and his ‘body’ was brought home, a family doctor examined him and claimed that his heart was beating.
By then, the Chief Minister had twitted a condolence message expressing her shock over Banerjee’s demise.
The tweet was soon erased and Banerjee was rushed to another private hospital, where doctors declared him dead.
Later, the AMRI Hospital, where Banerjee was first taken, claimed that its doctors “were under no confusion over his demise” as two ECG graphs – the first one conducted on him in the ambulance on way to the hospital – had shown flat line,” indicating “that he expired even before he had reached the hospital”.
“Since protocol demanded that if admitted, Banerjee’s body had to undergo a post-mortem examination, accompanying family and friends decided to take the body back to his residence,” the hospital said in a statement.