Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s Health and Family Welfare Minister Naba Kishore Das died hours after being shot by a policeman, battling a bullet which pierced his heart and lung, Apollo Hospital officials said.
A team of doctors operated on him after he was airlifted from Jharsugada to Bhubaneshwar, hospital officials said.
Das, who was 60 years old, was shot through the heart at Brajrajnagar town around 1 pm when the minister was on his way to attend a programme in the district.
“On operating, (it) was found that a single bullet had entered and exited the body, injuring the heart and left lung, and causing massive internal bleeding and injury.
“The injuries were repaired, and steps were taken to improve the pumping of the heart. He was given urgent ICU care. But, despite best of efforts, he could not be revived and succumbed to his injuries,” the hospital said in a statement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Odisha Governor Prof Ganeshi Lal and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik condoled the death of Das.
“Saddened by the unfortunate demise of Minister in Odisha Government, Shri Naba Kishore Das Ji. Condolences to his family in this tragic hour. Om Shanti,” Modi said in a tweet.
In a statement, Patnaik, who was believed to be close to Das, said he is shocked and distressed.
“The doctors made every possible effort to save his life. But unfortunately, he could not recover. He has successfully carried out many initiatives in the health department for the benefit of people,” Patnaik said.
As a leader, Das was instrumental in strengthening the Biju Janata Dal, the CM said, adding, he was a “grassroot person” and was “loved and respected by all, cutting across parties and sections of people”.
Considered a close confidant of Chief Minister Patnaik, Das, who took oath as a minister of health and family welfare on May 29, 2019, continued in the same portfolio even when the chief minister came up with an overhaul of his cabinet last June.
The health minister’s pro-active role during the COVID-19 pandemic, possibly ensured this vote of confidence by the BJD Supremo.
Das is survived by wife Minati and a son and a daughter.
The Minister was shot by Assistant Sub-inspector of Police (ASI) Gopal Das, a policeman who was suffering from bipolar disorder which causes extreme mood swings, according to psychiatrists.
In a video footage in possession of PTI, the minister was seen bleeding from the chest with people trying to lift the injured minister, who seemed unconscious, and place him on the front seat of a car.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Bhubaneswar, Prateek Singh said a green corridor was set up in the state capital for ferrying Das to the hospital from the airport.
Tension prevailed in Brajrajnagar in the wake of the incident, with supporters of the BJD minister questioning “security lapses”.
Meanwhile, opposition Congress has demanded the resignation of Patnaik, accusing him of failing to maintain law and order in Odisha.
“When the government is unable to give security to the cabinet minister, how can it protect lives of the common man?” said Congress MLA Santosh Singh Saluja.
The minister, a strongman in the mining hub of Jharsuguda, had switched over to the BJD from the Congress ahead of 2019 elections. He is known to have business interests in coal mining, transportation and hospitality sectors.
Gopal Das’s wife Jayanati told reporters at her residence near Berhampur in Ganjam district that she heard the news about her husband firing at the minister from television channels.
Jayanti said Das suffered from mental disorder for the last seven-eight years, but was taking medicines and appeared quite normal.
She said her husband had made a video call to their daughter in the morning.
Das had no personal enmity with the minister, said Jayanati, demanding a proper investigation into the matter to find out the truth.