Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi
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A brief biography
Enemies broke his arm but could never break his spirit
He was one of Congress’s Bengal stalwarts and former Union minister.
Dasmunsi had a scrappy, stormy career. Once, his political enemies broke his left arm, shortening it by a few inches. He bore that mark of violence from 1967 until he died in Delhi on Monday. But they were never able to break Dasmunsi’s spirit as he remained the nucleus of anti-Left forces in Bengal politics from the 1980s to the 1990s, preceded and succeeded by Congress and Trinamool Congress chief ministers, Siddhartha Shankar Ray and Mamata Banerjee, from two different generations.
Until October 12, 2008, when he suffered the massive stroke at his Raiganj home in north Bengal that sent him into a nine-year coma, he was one of Bengal’s tallest anti-Left leaders.
Dasmunsi’s reputation was made in the 1960s-style Calcutta street politics, where no quarter was asked for and none given between the Congress and the CPM. It was one such incident from 1967 that scarred Dasmunsi physically forever, senior Congress leader Arunava Ghosh told TOI on Monday. “He was beaten up by Left cadre and thrown into a ditch in Belgharia, then a surburb of Calcutta, after a street rally,” Ghosh recalled. “That incident, ironically, instead of finishing him off, established him as a firebrand, anti-Left leader in Bengal politics,” Nirbed Roy, now a Trinamool Congress MLA, said.
He became one of the youngest MPs in the Lok Sabha (he was not yet 26 then), winning the prestigious South Calcutta constituency in 1971. And, at 26, he became one of the youngest members of the Congress Working Committee and, more importantly, got noticed by PM Indira Gandhi. But the Emergency led to his falling out with Indira and her son, Sanjay, and Dasmunsi’s exited the party.
But return he did, holding the hand of Rajiv Gandhi after Indira’s assassination in 1984. He also returned to the Lok Sabha and returned to the Cabinet, handling key portfolios under several Congress PMs, ending with Manmohan Singh.
What keen followers of Bengal politics would remember him as is the lively politician who was an orator par excellence who was never short of words. It was, therefore, natural that, for many of them, the last nine years of silence — on a Delhi hospital bed — was unbearable.With his passing away on Monday, 10 minutes after noon, that long, uncomfortable period of silence was over. They could now go back to his fiery speeches and ready wit.
Football: contributions to
PriyaRanjanDasMunsi, former All India Football Federation (AIFF) president, who was in coma since 2008, died at a Delhi hospital on Tuesday. He was 72. Dasmunsi served as the AIFF president for as long as two decades and ran the country’s footballing affairs even though he was a senior Congress leader and a Union minister.
Elected president of the AIFF in 1989, after serving the organisation as vice-president, Priya da, as he was known in the football fraternity, stayed in the post till he suffered the massive stroke in 2008.
His tenure at the helm of footballing affairs in the country was tumultous and had seen more troughs than crests. Still, his affable nature and uncanny knack for improvisation had stood out amid many crisis situations.
One can level a million criticisms against Priya da, but one must give credit to the man whose single-handed effort gave India its National League in 1996.
“We feel that the first edition of the league was the best as it was beamed live. Indian football started entering the drawing rooms on a regular basis,” recalled a club official.
Dasmunsi’s primary and biggest contribution to Indian football is the introduction of the national league. The pressure from Fifa was there but to actually manage the logistics and helping the tournament see the light of day was a massive task.
Manipur was fraught with insurgecy in 2002 but it did not deter the then AIFF president who selected Imphal as a venue for Santosh Trophy. It turned out to be one of the most successful events of the time and fittingly the hosts won the trophy for the first time. Frankly, it took a lot of courage and daring to oragnise a tournament in Imphal at that time.
He earned a rare distinction when in 2006, FIFA named him the match commissioner for a group stage game between Australia and Croatia in the 2006 World Cup.
Sepp Blatter, who came visiting in 2007, said India’s clubs were 100-years behind schedule. Not that Priya da had not tried to improve things, perhaps he could have a done a lot more.
Never afraid to knock on any door for football, Priya da copped a lot of bad press during his time. Never for once, did it leave him perturbed or evoked vindictive reactions.
Priya da knew how to accept the game sportingly.