Union Environment Minister Anil Dave died following cardiac arrest here on Thursday morning. He was 61 and a bachelor.
The Union government announced a day of national mourning, with the national flag flying at half-mast across the country as a mark of respect to the departed leader.
The Cabinet held a special meeting to pay tributes to Dave and conveyed condolences to the family of Dave, a committed environmentalist who worked on green projects, including conservation of the Narmada.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Sonia Gandhi were among a host of leaders who condoled the death.
Later in the day, Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan was given additional charge of the Environment Ministry.
Dave's mortal remains will be cremated on Friday on the banks of the river in Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh.
Sources said Dave left a will in 2012 wherein he said his body should be cremated on the Narmada riverbank. It also said that no memorial should be erected anywhere in his name and people should rather plant trees.
Dave had not been keeping well since January when he was diagnosed with pneumonia and was feeling "badly weak" during the past few days, family sources said.
Meena Agarwal, wife of Dave's family physician Bharat Agarwal, told IANS that his family tried to wake him up in the morning but he appeared unconscious.
He was rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at 9 a.m. in a stage of cardiac arrest, a hospital statement said.
"All possible measures were taken immediately at AIIMS, but he could not survive and (was) declared dead around 9.45 a.m.," an AIIMS statement said.
Dave was inducted into the Union Council of Ministers on July 6, 2016, as Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment in place of Prakash Javedakar who was appointed Human Resource Development Minister.
In his message, Modi said: "Absolutely shocked by the sudden demise of my friend and a very respected colleague, Dave ji. My condolences."
The Prime Minister said Dave will be remembered as a "devoted public servant who was tremendously passionate towards conserving the environment".
"I was with Dave ji till late last evening (Wednesday), discussing key policy issues. This demise is a personal loss," Modi said.
One of those who attended that meeting recalled that Dave was looking "pale and weak but sat through the long meeting with the Prime Minister".
Mukherjee said Dave's tenure as Minister was "distinguished by extensive efforts to conserve nature and protect the environment".
Sonia Gandhi said Dave was a "soft-spoken and gentle human being" and will be remembered for his humble nature.
Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah, veteran leader L.K. Advani, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and a host of ministers, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, condoled Dave's death. They hailed him as a committed environmentalist.
Dave, who began his political career during his college days in his home state of Madhya Pradesh, was a Rajya Sabha member since 2009.
Dave joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh -- the ideological mentor of the Bharatiya Janata Party -- as a child and later volunteered to be its 'pracharak' (full-timer) after completing his studies.
He was deputed to the BJP before the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections in 2003.
In its resolution, the Cabinet recalled Dave's multifaceted personality.
It said Dave was a prolific writer and associated with a play on Chhatrapati Shivaji -- Janata Raja -- which has been staged 1,000 times, including a performance at Wembley Stadium, London.
"He was also a trained pilot, who flew a Cessna 173 plane over the Narmada from its source to mouth, and also completed a 1,312-km raft journey across the river," the resolution said.
It said Dave handled his public responsibilities with politeness and grace.
"In his passing away, the nation has lost an eminent leader from Madhya Pradesh," the Cabinet resolution added.
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