Mumbai : Eknath Thakur, Chairman of the country’s largest co-operative sector lender, Saraswat Bank, died here at his residence after a prolonged fight with cancer on Thursday.

Thakur, who also represented Shiv Sena in the Rajya Sabha from 2002 to 2008, was 73.

He was also the director of several public and private sector banks and even served as a trustee of the Indian Education Society, one of the largest educational organisations running 75 institutions in Mumbai. A few years ago, he founded the National School of Banking (NSB) which has trained over 3,00,000 students aspiring to join the country’s banking industry through its 50 centres across India. Thakur’s last rites will be performed at Shivaji Park on Friday.

Governor K Sankaranarayanan expressed grief over the demise of Thakur. In a condolence message, the Governor said, “Eknath Thakur was a respected personality from Maharashtra who laid his imprint on the socio-economic life of Maharashtra in more ways than one.”

“As Member of Parliament, he often raised issues of concern for the common man in the Rajya Sabha and on other public forums. He had a sincere urge to serve the society. He always encouraged youths to become entrepreneurs. In his demise, Maharashtra has lost a successful banker and a great human being,” the Governor said.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, in his condolence message, described Thakur as a thorough gentleman and a sensitive and sensible economist. “I’ve closely seen these qualities of Mr Thakur while working with him on various committees of Rajya Sabha,” Chavan said.

Dy. CM Ajit Pawar described him as “an embodiment of confidence and positive energy”, while Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council Vinod Tawde expressed his grief saying that, “thousands of young Marathi entrepreneurs have lost their biggest supporter in Mr Thaklur.”

Thakur took over as Chairman of Saraswat Bank in 2001 and continued being at the helm till his demise. The 13-year-period has seen the bank’s total business grow nearly nine times and became the first multi-state co-operative bank. The bank is now contemplating changing its character and becoming a private sector bank, the bank said.

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