Former Union Minister and senior Trinamool Congress leader Ajit Panja died early on Friday morning at a private hospital in Kolkata. Panja had cancer of the mouth, which had spread to other parts of his body. He was 72 and had been in hospital since October 26.
A six-time MP, Panja was a minister in the governments of Rajiv Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and held key portfolios including information and broadcasting.
A lawyer by profession, Panja quit the Congress party in 1997 and joined the Trinamool Congress under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee.
Panja started his political career in Congress and was elected to the West Bengal Assembly for the first time in 1971.
Panja became a founder member of Trinamool Congress led Mamata Banerjee and won the Lok Sabha elections
in 1998 on a ticket of the new party and served as its chief whip in Parliament.
Re-elected to the Lok Sabha for the sixth consecutive time in 1999, Panja was Minister of State for External Affairs in the NDA Government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
A man of varied talents, Panja was a keen stage actor and had won great appreciation for his portrayal of Ramakrishna Paramhans in the Bengali play 'Noti Binodini'. He was also interested in Rabindra Sangeet and writing poems and dramas.
Born in 1936, he did graduation from Scottish Church College in Kolkata and Bar-at-Law from Lincoln's Inn, London.
Panja was elected to the West Bengal Assembly in 1971 and was Minister for Health and Family Planning in the Siddhartha Shankar Ray Government from 1972 to 1977.
He rose to become the WBPCC president in 1980 and in the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, he was elected from the Calcutta North East constituency.
In the Rajiv Gandhi Government, he held the portfolios of Minister of State for Planning in 1985 and Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies in 1986.
Panja was given independent charge of the prestigious Information and Broadcasting Ministry from 1986 to 1988. He had also served as the Minister of State for Finance.