Former president Pranab Mukherjee (84) passed away on Monday after his condition declined earlier in the day and he suffered a septic shock due to his lung infection, the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital said. For the past two weeks, Mukherjee was in a deep coma and on ventilator support after he was was admitted to the hospital on August 10 and was operated the same day for removal of a clot in his brain. Mukherjee was the 13th President of India from 2012 to 2017. The government has announced a seven-day state mourning.
“With a heavy heart, this is to inform you that my father Shri Pranab Mukherjee has just passed away in spite of the best efforts of Doctors of RR Hospital and prayers duas and prarthanas from people throughout India! I thank all of You Folded hands,” his son Abhijit Mukherjee tweeted.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Mukherjee left an indelible mark on India’s development trajectory. “India grieves the passing away of Bharat Ratna Shri Pranab Mukherjee. A scholar par excellence, a towering statesman, he was admired across the political spectrum and by all sections of society,” PM Modi tweeted.
Expressing condolences, President Ram Nath Kovind said, “The nation mourns one of its worthiest sons. Sad to hear that former President Pranab Mukherjee is no more, his demise is passing of an era.”
In a statement, the Home Ministry said that as a mark of respect, state mourning would be observed for seven days throughout India from August 31 to September 6. “During the period of state mourning, 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,” the statement said.
Starting off as a protege of Indira Gandhi, who stood beside her during the Emergency, Mukherjee came to be known as a crisis manager who commanded the respect of all and had friends across the aisle. The once Congress stalwart wore many hats over the last five decades in public life and 37 years in Parliament. He was conferred the Bharat Ratna last year.
Interestingly, Mukherjee, nicknamed ‘Poltu da’, had come close to becoming the prime minister in 2012. In his own words, he got a sense that he could replace Manmohan Singh, who could be sent to Rashtrapati Bhawan. But destiny had other plans.
Pranab Mukherjee’s political journey started in West Bengal in the 1969 by-election in Midnapore when he was the election agent for V K Krishna Menon, who ran as an independent candidate. He caught the eye of Siddhartha Shankar Ray who recommended him to Indira Gandhi, who gave him a Rajya Sabha seat. Thus at the age of 35, Mukherjee entered the Rajya Sabha. Besides serving two terms as finance minister, Mukherjee also held the post of commerce minister in 1993 and is known for championing the cause of trade liberalisation.
Pranab Mukherjee first became the general secretary of the Congress in 1998. He was a member of the Congress Working Committee for 23 years. For a brief period he was also given the responsibility to head the West Bengal unit of the Party.
Mukherjee worked under three Prime Ministers – Indira Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh. He is the only finance minister to have presented budgets both before the 1991 reforms in the license-permit raj regime as well after the 1991 economic reforms. He took bold decisions after the global economic crisis of 2008 which helped shield the Indian economy.