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Last Updated: Monday, 19 July, 2004, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Funeral held for oldest Indian MP
Ramachandra Veerappa
Retirement was always a distant thought
India's oldest parliamentarian, Ramachandra Veerappa, has received a state funeral at his home in the southern state of Karnataka.

He died in hospital on Sunday following kidney failure aged 94.

Former Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani and other senior leaders of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attended his funeral.

Veerappa, a freedom fighter, was elected for the fifth time in a row in the general elections held in April.

The BBC's Habib Beary in the state capital, Bangalore, says that the veteran politician will be remembered for his spartan lifestyle and easy accessibility.

Low caste

His enthusiasm for politics seldom waned: during an interview with the BBC during the election campaign earlier this year, Veerappa said he was looking forward to completing 100 years as a member of parliament.

"It is because of people's goodwill that I will be elected again," a confident Veerappa, who was from the low-caste Dalit community, had said.

He represented Bidar, a constituency where only Dalits may stand, 700km (435 miles) from Bangalore.

On an average day he was on the campaign trail for nearly 10 hours - no mean feat when summer temperatures hit 40C.

A teetotaller renowned for his red turban, Veerappa entered politics during the Raj, joining the Congress Party-led freedom struggle against the British.

He was deported to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, far from the Indian mainland.

After independence, he made his electoral debut in 1952, winning a Legislative Council seat. He switched parties and joined the BJP in 1991.


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