Pranab Mukherjee Dies At 84; Rio Mourns Passing Of 'towering Personality '
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India, Nagaland

Pranab Mukherjee dies at 84; Rio mourns passing of ‘towering personality ‘

By PTI Updated: Sep 01, 2020 12:28 am
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Pranab Mukherjee

New Delhi, Aug. 31 (PTI): Former president Pranab Mukherjee, statesman, scholar and one of India’s most respected leaders across the political spectrum, died on Monday evening following a 21-day battle with multiple ailments. He was 84.

Mukherjee, who was admitted to the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital on August 10 and was operated for a removal of a clot in the brain the same day, is survived by two sons and a daughter.

The long-time Congress leader and seven-time parliamentarian, known for his encyclopaedic memory and insights into varied issues, had tested positive for Covid-19 at the time of his admission and was being treated for a lung infection. He suffered a septic shock on Sunday and died of a cardiac arrest at 4.30 pm, the hospital said.

The funeral will be held at 2 pm on Tuesday at the Lodhi Road crematorium, his family said.

The government announced seven-day state mourning from August 31 to September 6. 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 home ministry said in a statement.

Mukherjee’s son Abhijit was the first to break the news of the death of the veteran politician, the Congress’ trouble-shooter through the decades who became India’s youngest Finance minister when he was just 47 and also held the portfolios of External Affairs and Defence in the years that followed.

‘With a heavy heart, this is to inform you that my father 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,’ his grieving son said on Twitter.

As condolences poured in for India’s 13th president, who served as the country’s first citizen from 2012 to 2017, President Ram Nath Kovind described Mukherjee’s demise as 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 said on Twitter.

Expressing his condolences, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described him as a scholar par excellence and a towering statesman who was admired across the political spectrum.

“India grieves the passing away of Bharat Ratna Pranab Mukherjee. He has left an indelible mark on the development trajectory of our nation,” Modi tweeted.

In a series of tweets, the prime minister said Mukherjee in his decades-long political journey made long-lasting contributions in key economic and strategic ministries. He was an outstanding parliamentarian, always well-prepared, extremely articulate as well as witty, Modi said.

In her condolence letter to Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmistha, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said his life over the past five decades mirrored 50 years of India’s history.

“He brought distinction to every post he held. He established a genuine rapport with colleagues across the political spectrum, and he served our country with the utmost dedication,” Gandhi said.

“Pranab Da 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,” she said.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Mukherjee’s colleague in the Congress said he had learnt a lot from him and depended on him a great deal for his wisdom, vast knowledge and experience of public affairs.

“In his death, our country has lost one of its greatest leaders of Independent India. He and I worked very closely in the Government of India and I depended on him a great deal for his wisdom, vast knowledge and experience of public affairs,” he said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said he joined the country in paying homage to the former president.

While most of Mukherjee’s political life was fairly non-controversial, his visit to the RSS headquarters in Nagpur in June 1988, a year after he demitted office, generated huge controversy. His Bharat Ratna in 2019 also became the centre of debate.

As president, he will be remembered for the tough stance he took on mercy petitions, rejecting 30 of the 34 mercy pleas presented to him.

‘Towering personality of modern India’—Rio

Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio mourned the loss of a ‘towering personality of modern India’, who will be remembered as a ‘staunch Congressman, parliamentarian and a much respected president of the country’.

In a condolence message, Rio recalled that Mukherjee, besides his numerous ministerial portfolios, was also an accomplished journalist and author.

“He played a pivotal role in shaping the policies and fortunes of the Indian National Congress party, being a member of the Congress Working Committee for several decades. Late Mukherjee excelled in all his assignments and responsibilities, displaying mature wisdom and deep insight,” the chief minister said.

The former president had a close bond with the Naga people and always showed deep concern for the people of Nagaland, he added.

“In my several interactions with him in different capacities, late Pranab Mukherjee always gave a patient hearing and made efforts to resolve challenges in a humane and democratic manner. I will always recollect our association and interactions with fond memories. He last visited Nagaland in 2013 and graced our Statehood Day and Hornbill Festival celebrations and the Naga people still recollect memorable experiences of his visit.

“Nagaland joins the rest of the country in bereavement and in paying respect to the departed leader. On behalf of the Naga people and the government of Nagaland, I offer our deepest condolences on the demise of Mukherjee. His demise is indeed an irreparable loss to the nation. We pray to the Almighty God that his soul rest in peace,” read the message.

By PTI Updated: Sep 01, 2020 12:28:12 am
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