Former President Pranab Mukherjee passed away on Monday afternoon after he developed a lung infection at the Army’s Research and Referral hospital where he had been admitted for a brain surgery. This morning itself the hospital in a medical bulletin has said that Mr. Mukherjee had gone into septic shock due to the lung infection. He had also tested positive for COVID-19.
Mr. Mukherjee’s son, former Lok Sabha MP Abhijit Mukherjee, announced his father’s death on Twitter on Monday evening stating that despite the best efforts of doctors and prayers of ordinary Indians throughout the country, this had come to pass.
Mr. Mukherjee, born in 1935 in Mirati in West Bengal, first became an MP, in the Rajya Sabha in 1969 on a Congress nomination. Close to late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Mr. Mukherjee held many ministerial positions in the government of India, including Defence, Finance, and External Affairs before he was elected President of India in 2012.
A Congressman all his life, Mr. Mukherjee had a short break with the party in the Rajiv Gandhi years over what was termed as his ambitions to be Prime Minister but which was subsequently explained as a misunderstanding in his memoirs. One of the few congressmen to have attended an annual function at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, in 2018, Mr. Mukherjee retained his friendships across party lines, despite heavy criticism from the Congress for his visit to Nagpur.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Mr. Mukherjee’s immediate successor at Rashtrapati Bhavan, condoled his death and said it was the “passing of an era.”
“Endowed with perspicacity and wisdom, Bharat Ratna Shri Mukherjee combined tradition with modernity. In his five-decade-long illustrious public life, he remained rooted to the ground irrespective of the exalted office he held. He endeared himself to people across the political spectrum. As the First Citizen, he continued to connect with everyone, bringing Rashtrapati Bhavan closer to the people. He opened its gates for public visits. His decision to discontinue the honorific “His Excellency” was historic,” said President Kovind.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had, in the past, compared Mr. Mukherjee to a father figure in his life as he moved to Delhi from Gujarat as Prime Minister, said that India grieved Mr. Mukherjee’s passing. “India grieves the passing away of Bharat Ratna Shri Pranab Mukherjee. He has left an indelible mark on the development trajectory of our nation. A scholar par excellence, a towering statesman, he was admired across the political spectrum and by all sections of society,” he said.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, also expressed condolences on the passing of Mr. Mukherjee, “with great sadness, the nation receives the news of the unfortunate demise of our former president Shri Pranab Mukherjee, I join the country in paying homage to him.”
Mr. Mukherjee’s Cabinet colleague in the UPA government, Anand Sharma said that he would be “remembered as a great parliamentarian for his erudition, articulation and commitment to democracy.”