Former Union minister and Samajwadi Party founding member Beni Prasad Verma died at a hospital in Lucknow on Friday, ANI reported. Verma, 79, had been suffering from age-related illnesses for a while.

The Samajwadi Party, confirming the death of its Rajya Sabha MP, offered condolences on Twitter:

Verma had served as communications minister in the Union Cabinet of then Prime Minister HD Devegowda from 1996 to 1998. He also served as the minister for steel in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet in the second term of the United Progressive Alliance government.

In 2009, he left the Samajwadi Party and joined the Congress, but returned to the party’s fold in 2016. Verma was considered close to former Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Uttar Pradesh Samajwadi Party chief Naresh Uttam Patel expressed grief over Verma’s death, News18 reported. Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav also offered condolences to Verma’s family.