Vaidya was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer at the Poona Hospital.

Veteran socialist leader Bhai Vaidya passed away on Monday evening.
Veteran socialist leader Bhai Vaidya passed away on Monday evening.(HT File Photo)

Veteran socialist leader Bhai Vaidya, also a former home minister of Maharashtra and president of the recently relaunched Socialist Party of India, passed away on Monday evening following a prolonged illness, said doctors treating him. He was 89 years old.

Vaidya was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer at the Poona Hospital. Abhijit Vaidya, Bhai Vaidya’s son had earlier said, “He complained of pain in the abdomen a month back and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was attending programmes and protests even five days ago when his health got worse and consequently we moved him to the hospital.”

Born on June 22, 1928, at Dapode village in Pune district, Vaidya began his journey in activism and politics as a 14-year-old taking part in the freedom struggle. He later became the mayor of Pune.

Kumar Saptarshi, chief of Yuva Kranti Dal (Yukrand), said, “Passing away of Bhai Vaidya is a major loss to the society. I have been fortunate to have known him and worked with him for very long. He was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s thoughts. He worked extensively towards improving the condition of backward people. He introduced the backward class to true secularism.”

Social activist Subhash Ware said, “Although we were expecting this news since the last four days, it still is very difficult for us to accept the fact that he is no more. Bhai Vaidya’s death has created a major vacuum in the state.”

His contribution to the field of education is unparalleled, added Ware.

Over a political career spanning 60 years, Bhai Vaidya was elected multiple times as a corporator for the Pune Municipal Corporation. He became the mayor of Pune and was the first president of the All India Mayors Association. He was also minister of state for home and is remembered for many reforms in the police department, especially for changing the police uniform to full pants. He was Pune’s mayor in 1974-75 and state home minister in 1978.

He also made a significant contribution to the freedom struggle. He led the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement for a unified Maharashtra in 1957 and was arrested during Emergency in 1977. He has authored books on socialism, the Mandal commission and educational reforms among others.

Vaidya also formed unions of unorganised workers in the state. He is the recipient of several awards such as Goa Krantidin, Moulana Sadbhavna, Samata Bhushan and Mahatma Phule. He always remained a staunch socialist and progressive ideologue. Even during the infamous Emergency, he remained defiant as the mayor and organised a 20,000-strong rally at Shaniwarwada and was arrested. He has been in jail 28 times.