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Tuesday 2 June 2020

Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, 72, dead

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New Delhi: Former Union information and broadcasting minister, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, has died at the age of 72 here on Monday afternoon. He was in coma since 2008.

A former All India Football Federation (AIFF) President and leader of the Congress party, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi had been admitted at the Apollo Hospital in the national capital. Dasmunsi had suffered a heart attack at his official residence 3, Moti Lal Nehru Marg, on 12 October 2008, and had been in coma since then.

Due to massive stroke and paralysis, Dasmunsi was unable to speak or recognise anyone. He was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi and was later shifted to Apollo Hospital. He remained on life support, and was diagnosed with a complete failure of the left ventricular system.

In November 2009, Dasmunsi was temporarily moved to Düsseldorf, where he underwent stem cell therapy in an attempt to reverse some of the loss of brain functions caused by the stroke.

Dasmunsi was the cabinet minister in Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting during the first term of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This posting led to several controversial decisions, including several bans of Western television networks, including a three-month ban on the Sony-owned television network AXN and Fashion TV following the broadcast of programs deemed “obscene” by Dasmunsi.

Dasmunsi was also responsible for the popular, if controversial, decision to require Indian sports broadcaster Nimbus Communications to share broadcast rights for Indian cricket matches with the state television network, Doordarshan — this despite Nimbus paying hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to broadcast Indian cricket matches over four years.

At the time of his stroke in 2008, Dasmunsi was heading AIFF, leading to Praful Patel taking over his president.

Since Dasmunsi’s hospitalisation, his wife Deepa Dasmunsi has to some extent taken over his political mantle. Deepa was elected from Raiganj (Lok Sabha constituency) in 2009.

President of the AIFF from 1988 to 2008, Dasmunsi was the first Indian to serve as a match commissioner in a FIFA World Cup game.

After serving as a match commissioner at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi went on to perform the role in the Spain-Tunisia group stage game at the FIFA World Cup in 2006.

At the same tournament, he was handed the match commissioner’s role for the Australia-Croatia game in the same round. The match was infamous for a refereeing blunder by English official Graham Poll, who showed Croatian player Josip Simunic three yellow cards in the game.

Dasmunsi had also been involved with the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, and later headed the legal committee of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). He was also a member of the standing committee of world football governing body FIFA.

In 2004, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi went on to serve as India’s Chef-de-Mission to the Athens Olympics.

Reacting to Dasmunsi’s death, Delhi Soccer Association (DSA) president and former AIFF and FIFA official, Shaji Prabhakaran, expressed sorrow at the news.

“I have a fond memory of working with him at AIFF from 2004 to 2008. His contribution to Indian football, especially in starting the national league, was tremendous. He gave complete freedom to coaches as well. There was never any attempt to interfere in team selections or other aspects,” he said.

Hindusthan Samachar/Amit Kumar
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