Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Saturday, 15 May 2010 18:51 UK

Former Indian VP Bhairon Singh Shekhawat dies

Bhairon Singh Shekhawat (file)
Mr Shekhawat instigated a ground-breaking scheme to help the poor

One of India's best known politicians, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, has died in hospital in Jaipur at the age of 87.

Mr Shekhawat was India's vice-president for five years from 2002 to 2007, and also served three terms as the chief minister of the state of Rajasthan.

He was one of the most influential leaders of the BJP, India's main opposition party, and his political career spanned more than 50 years.

Rajasthan's government has declared three days of official mourning.

'Huge personality'

Mr Shekhawat was born in a small village in Rajasthan, the eldest child of eight.

His many qualities of head and heart included a liberal outlook and generosity of spirit
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

When his father died, he had to leave school and joined the police to support the family.

He entered state politics in his 30s and went on to serve three terms at chief minister of Rajasthan.

He was praised overseas when he launched a ground-breaking scheme to help the poor.

In tributes to him, friends and colleagues described him as a huge personality and a dedicated politician whose focus was always on the good of the country.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: "It is a tribute to Shekhawat's leadership qualities that he overcame the disadvantages of his early life to carve out a sterling career in public service.

"Together with a few others, he defined a whole era in the Bharatiya Janata Party. His many qualities of head and heart included a liberal outlook and generosity of spirit."

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