Veteran politician Ram Vilas Paswan, a federal minister and an ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling coalition, died on Thursday after weeks in hospital, his son Chirag Paswan said in a Tweet. He was 74.

India’s Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution was admitted to a city hospital on Sept. 11 and went under heart surgery on Oct. 4.

Paswan oversaw the world’s biggest food welfare programme as a food minister. The government gives cheap rice and wheat to India’s millions of poor people, under its billion-dollar food aid.

Modi said in a Tweet reacting to news of his death, I am beyond words, there is an empty space in our nation that will perhaps never be filled.

As mines, steel, and telecommunication and information minister among other portfolios, Paswan worked with many prime ministers and served as India in his long political career.

As the chief of the Lok Jan Shakti Party, Paswan joined National Democratic Alliance that wipe India’s general election in 2014. The NDA was voted to power with a bigger majority in 2019.

Three-quarters of the majority Hindu population is about 80% of India’s 1.3 billion people, Paswan and his party represented India’s socially disadvantaged classes.

The LJP enjoys substantial support in Paswan’s home state of Bihar in the east.

Bihar elections will start at the end of October and Chirag Paswan is leading the LJP into the voting for the legislature.

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