Pranab Mukherjee

India’s former president Pranab Mukherjee, a recipient of ‘Bharat Ratna’, the country’s highest civilian award has died at a hospital in Delhi.  A stalwart statesman who was admired across party lines, left behind a rich legacy of unconditional loyalty and service to the Congress party, although he had a brief exit post Indira Gandhi murder in 1984. He was 84.

The former President died of multiple organ failure after he was admitted to New Delhi’s Army Hospital Research and Referral three weeks ago. He had tested positive to COVID-19 infection and was admitted to hospital for an emergency when he developed a blood clot in the brain. On August 10, he slipped into coma after the emergency surgery for the clot and his health deteriorated from thereon.

Doctors said he died of a cardiac arrest at 4.30pm. His wife Suvra Mukherjee died in 2015.  Mukherjee was decorated with India’s highest honour, the Bharat Ratna in 2019. He is survived by two sons and a daughter.

Mourning Mukherjee’s death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted:

“During his political career that spanned decades, Shri Pranab Mukherjee made long-lasting contributions in key economic and strategic ministries. He was an outstanding Parliamentarian, always well-prepared, extremely articulate as well as witty.”

“As India’s President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee made Rashtrapati Bhavan even more accessible to common citizens. He made the President’s house a centre of learning, innovation, culture, science and literature. His wise counsel on key policy matters will never be forgotten by me,” PM Modi added in a series of tweets.

The Indian government has announced seven days of state mourning for President Mukherjee.

“During the period… the national flag will fly at half-mast on all buildings throughout India, where it is flown regularly, and there will be no official entertainment,” a home ministry statement said.

Mukherjee’s successor, President Ram Nath Kovind, says Pranab Da’s death was the passing of an era.

“…A colossus in public life, he served Mother India with the spirit of a sage. The nation mourns losing one of its worthiest sons. Condolences to his family, friends & all citizens,” Kovind tweeted.

The Congress parliamentary party, too, has offered its condolences to Mukherjee’s family. “Pranabda (as he was fondly called) had been such an integral and prominent part of national life, the Congress party and the central government for over five decades, it is hard to imagine how we can do without his wisdom, experience, sage advice and deep understanding of so many subjects…His life over the past 50 years mirrored 50 years of the history of India, for he played a crucial role both in shaping the course of events as well as actively participating in them…,” a statement signed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi said.

PranabDa served his party since 1969 when he first entered parliament until he was elevated to the office of the President of India. He exited briefly 1986-1989 when he formed his own party – Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress when his ambition to be the Prime Minister of India was thwarted by the Gandhi family stooges in the party. PranabDa believed he was the most deserving Congressman to lead the party and was against automatic dynastic elevation of Rajiv Gandhi to the position. After he failed to allure other big names away from the Congress party, in 1989 he reconciled his differences with Rajiv Gandhi and came back into the Congress Party, remaining loyal till the end of his political career.

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