Dubai: Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, former union minister and a passionate football administrator of India, was a forgotten man in public memory for the last nine years as he lay in coma in a private hospital in New Delhi. The end finally came on Monday morning, evoking reactions in equal measure from both political and football circles.
In his message, President Ramnath Kovind said: “Sad to hear about the demise of former Union Minister and veteran political leader Shri Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi. He contributed much to Bengal and to the administration of football in our country. My condolences to his family and associates.”
Describing him as a “popular leader” with rich political and administrative experience, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also did not shy away from football in his tweet: “He did notable work to popularise football in India. Saddened by his demise. My thoughts are with Deepa Dasmunshi ji and family as well as his supporters,” Modi tweeted.
Dasmunshi who was Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister in the Congress regime under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, suffered a massive stroke in 2008 while in office that left him paralysed and speechless. The blood supply to a part of his brain was cut off, causing irreversible damage. “We tried almost everything possible, I even took him to Germany for stem cell therapy but unfortunately that didn’t really work. The therapy was mainly aimed at improving his brain function but it wasn’t effective,” his wife Deepa told the media.
Dasmunshi represented Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal before being succeeded by his wife. The 72-year-old leader is also survived by his son Priyadeep.
An astute Parliamentarian known for his debating skills, Dasmunshi had endeared himself to the football community of Kolkata and the country during his long reign as the President of All India Football Federation (AIFF). There was the odd acrimonious election fought with the likes of Santosh Mohan Dev, another senior Congress leader, for the AIFF top job but at the end of the day — ‘Priya da’ would always have the last laugh and had the ability to work in tandem with his detractors.
As a football administrator, his biggest contribution was perhaps introduction of a pan-Indian National League, which is still the official league in India. “He started the National Football League and brought professionalism in Indian football. He appointed Alberto Colaco as the first professional general secretary during his time and I also became the vice-president in 2004 under him,” said Subrata Dutta, senior vice-president of AIFF.
Always a gracious host to members of the media, who had easy access to his cubbyhole office next to Netaji Indoor Stadium or even at his residence, Dasmunshi was liberal enough to accept criticism — both in the political arena as well the game. The enormous collection of books which lined the shelves at his house saw enough tomes on football literature, not to speak of the souvenirs which he may have picked up during his visit as Fifa delegate to major football tournaments across the world. In 2006, he became the first Indian to be a match commissioner in a Fifa World Cup game in group stage between Australia and Croatia.
He was also the editor of a Bengali literary magazine called ‘Dakshini Barta,’ which continued it’s publication — albeit irregularly — by his family friends and well wishers even after he slipped into coma in October, 2008.