Environment Minister Anil Dave passed away early on Thursday morning after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 61.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to express his condolence.

“Absolutely shocked by the sudden demise of my friend & a very respected colleague, Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave ji. My condolences. Anil Madhav Dave ji will be remembered as a devoted public servant. He was tremendously passionate towards conserving the environment. I was with Anil Madhav Dave ji till late last evening, discussing key policy issues. This demise is a personal loss,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted this morning.

Dave hailed from Madhya Pradesh where he had done a stint as Minister of Environment. He was inducted into the Union Council of Ministers on July 6, 2016 as Minister of State for Environment with independent charge.

He had worked on conservation projects including of the Narmada river and founded "Narmada Samagra" for the purpose.

Dave had not been well since January when he was diagnosed with pneumonia and had been feeling "badly weak" in the past few days, family sources said.

He joined the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh after completing his post-graduation in commerce from Gujarati College in Indore. His father Dadasaheb Dave had been a long time RSS activist.

The government announced national mourning and "as a mark of respect" in his memory the National Flag will fly at half-mast across the country.

(With inputs from agencies)