SHIMLA: Former Telecom Minister Pandit Sukhram, a veteran Congress leader from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, passed away at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi on Tuesday night. He was 94.
After suffering a massive cardiac arrest, he had been on life support for the last two days.
Confirming his death, Sukhram’s grandson Ashray wrote on social media, “End of an era. Alvida Dada ji, ab nahin bajegi phone ki ghanti (goodbye Dada ji, phone bell won’t ring now).”
As the telecom minister, he was credited with bringing a revolution in landline telephone coverage not only in Himachal Pradesh but across the country as he ensured connections reached the remotest of areas.
The father of BJP MLA from Mandi Sadar Anil Sharma, he suffered a brain stroke on May 6 and was airlifted the next day to AIIMS, New Delhi, in a government chopper. Two days ago, he had suffered a massive cardiac arrest at AIIMS and he was put on the life support system. He breathed his last late on Tuesday night.
Born on July 27, 1927, at Kotli village in Mandi district, he initially became a member of the Territorial Council in Himachal Pradesh. He had served as the Union Minister of Communications and Information Technology from 1993 to 1996 while being a member of the Lok Sabha from Mandi. He won the Vidhan Sabha elections five times and the Lok Sabha elections thrice.
In 2011, he was sentenced to five years in jail for the infamous telecom scam of 1996 during his tenure as the minister.
He had also served as minister of state for defence production and supplies, planning and food and civil supplies. He was the Union minister of state (independent charge) holding the communications portfolio from 1993 to 1996.
Sukhram again won the Mandi Lok Sabha seat in 1996, but he was expelled from Congress along with his son Anil Sharma after the telecom scam. In 1998, he formed the Himachal Vikas Congress and entered into a post-poll alliance with the BJP in the Himachal Assembly, and joined the government. He rejoined the Congress in the run-up to the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.