Former I&B minister Pramod Mahajan dead

NEW DELHI: Senior BJP leader and former information & broadcasting (I&B) minister Pramod Mahajan passed away this afternoon at Mumbai's Hinduja Hospital following multiple organ failure.
Mahajan, who was shot and grievously wounded by his youngest brother Pravin on the morning of 22 April after an argument at the BJP leader's apartment in Mumbai's upscale Worli area, had remained in a critical condition ever since the attack 12 days ago.

The 56-year-old former I&B minister had three bullets lodged in his body and suffered what ultimately proved fatal damage to his liver, pancreas and intestines. Mahajan is survived by his wife and a son and daughter.

Hinduja Hospital has been virtually under media seige these past days with television crews stationed there 24/7. Mahajan's condition, which has had blanket coverage across all news channels, began deteriorating rapidly since yesterday and officials anounced his demise at 4:10 pm this evening.

It was on Mahajan's watch that Star India in 1998-99 made its first concerted effort to get a direct-to-home (DTH) broadcast service going with its ISkyB venture. Mahajan had in end-1998 indicated that DTH clearances would come within two-and-a-half months.

Doordarshan's news channel is also a brain child of Mahajan, who floated the idea in 1999. The idea of starting such a channel was mooted immediately after the BJP came to power in March 1998. Mahajan gave the green signal for starting the channel after he became I&B minister in December.

It was also Mahajan who got the idea to upgrade the facilities of Kashmir DD centre to counter Pakistani propaganda unleashed by Pakistan's state broadcaster PTV in 1999-2000. Though a dedicated Kashmir channel was started with the help of private broadcasters when Arun Jaitley became the I&B minister after Mahajan in 2000, the former had sanctioned a $100m package for the upgradation of DD Kashmir's centre.

After Mahajan was shifted to the telecom ministry, holding also the infotec portfolio, he expressly scotched an idea of merging the telecom and I&B ministry to form an ICE ministry for the proposed convergence era.

It is not wise to make one out of three important ministries of telecom, information and broadcasting and information technology, especially in view of the amount of work involved and number of employees associated, Mahajan had said in his capacity as information technology & communication and parliamentary affairs minister, while opposing a merger of the three ministries.

The media savvy Mahajan was also the brain behind the "India Shining" campaign that his party, which was then ruling at the Centre, used unsuccessfully to fight the last general elections in 2004.

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