Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh dies

Vilasrao Deshmukh
Image caption Mr Deshmukh (centre) rose to the corridors of power from humble beginnings

India's Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has died at 67 after a long illness in hospital in the southern city of Chennai (Madras).

He was suffering from a liver ailment and had been taken to a hospital in the city for a transplant.

Mr Deshmukh was twice chief minister of the western state of Maharashtra and a powerful regional leader of the ruling Congress party.

He is survived by his wife and three sons.

India's parliament was adjourned following Mr Deshmukh's death as a mark of respect.

Popularly known as Vilasrao, he had to contend with about 30,000 farmers committing suicide because of failing crops during his stints as chief minister from 1999 to 2003 and from 2004 to 2008.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described him as "a valued cabinet colleague and an able administrator".

"We will miss him in the government," Mr Singh said.

Correspondents say however that his reputation was compromised by allegations of corruption in a money-lending scandal and by criticism of his behaviour in the aftermath of the Mumbai militant attacks four years ago.

He denied any wrongdoing.

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