Bangalore:  Senior BJP leader and Higher Education Minister V S Acharya passed away after a massive heart attack during a function here on Tuesday.

Seventy-two-year-old Acharya, who was not keeping well for some time, collapsed while participating at a seminar, organised by the Karnataka State

Government College Principals Forum, and was rushed to Mallige Medical Centre, where he was declared dead.

One of the senior-most figures of the ruling BJP, soft-spoken Acharya, a medical practitioner by profession, was respected by politicians cutting across party lines. He is survived by wife, four sons and a daughter.

A member of the state Legislative Council, Acharya, born on July six, 1939 in the coastal town of Udupi, also held the portfolios of Planning and Statistics, Muzrai, Information Technology and Biotechnology.

He earlier also served as Home Minister, state BJP vice-president and Udupi district BJP President.

The Cabinet held an emergency meeting and condoled the death, expressing profound grief.

Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, who appeared visibly shaken by Acharya's death, described him as his "political guru", and a "spotless" leader.

Fighting back tears, he said, "He is no more with us today. But somehow, he (Acharya) will have to continue to guide us....I don't know in which form or through whom.... otherwise politics in Karnataka will not emerge in a good way".

BJP President Nitin Gadkari and party stalwart L K Advani, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman K Rehman Khan, Union Ministers S M Krishna and M Veerappa Moily were among those who paid rich tributes to Acharya.

BJP said Acharya was instrumental in bringing the erstwhile Jana Sangh to power in Udupi Municipality in 1968, laying the foundation for the party rule in south (Karnataka).

The government declared a three-day mourning and a day's holiday today in Bangalore Urban, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts as mark of respect to Acharya.