Kerala Congress (M) chairman KM Mani, one of the tallest politicians in the state, passed away on Tuesday evening. He was 86.

The veteran politician breathed his last at 4.57 pm at the Lakeshore hospital in Kochi, where he was undergoing treatment for COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) with chest infection. The hospital authorities said his condition had improved in the morning from the day before, but by afternoon it had worsened and he breathed his last in the evening. He was admitted to the hospital on Friday. He was unable to campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections due to his deteriorating health condition.

Mani has been heading the Kerala Congress(M), ever since it was formed in 1979 after splitting from the Kerala Congress. Fondly called ‘Mani Saar’ by the masses and the state’s political class alike, he is the longest-serving member of the Kerala Legislative Assembly representing Pala constituency in Kottayam district. He has never lost an election to the state Assembly since his first win from Pala in 1965.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the senior leader’s death. “Shri KM Mani was a stalwart of Kerala politics. His impeccable electoral record indicated his deep connect with the citizens of the state. His rich contribution to the state will be remembered. Pained by his demise. Condolences to his family and supporters. RIP,” he posted on Twitter.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi too posted a condolence message on Twitter.

“I’m sorry to hear about the passing of Shri K M Mani, a highly respected & beloved leader of the Kerala Congress who was elected MLA a record 13 times. My condolences to his family, friends & supporters in this time of grief. May his soul rest in peace,” he shared.

Mani had the distinction of the longest-serving minister in the state, holding various portfolios like revenue, law, irrigation, home and finance. As finance minister, he also holds the record of presenting 13 Kerala budgets. In 2014-15, he also served as the chairman of the Council of State Finance Ministers for the implementation of the GST.

In his long political career, spanning over 53 years, Mani faced no major blemishes barring the bar bribery scam in 2015, which forced him to resign from the Oommen Chandy Cabinet. Mani was accused of taking a bribe of Rs 1 crore to renew the licenses of 400 bars in 2014. The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau had probed the case.