In a glittering career, he served in every capacity he was asked to but never the one he wanted
New Delhi: Former president Pranab Mukherjee died on Monday in an army hospital here, his son Abhijit said. He was 84.
“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,” Abhijit Mukherjee tweeted.
The former president was admitted to the hospital in Delhi Cantonment on August 10 and was operated the same day for removal of a clot in his brain. He later developed a lung infection.
President Ram Nath Kovind and prime minister Narendra Modi paid fulsome tributes to the late Mukherjee.
“His demise is the passing of an era,” said Kovind. “The nation mourns one of its worthiest sons.”
Modi said he was blessed to have the guidance of president Mukherjee when he became prime minister. “He left an indelible mark on India’s development trajectory; a scholar par excellence, a towering statesman, admired by all,” Modi said.
“Mukherjee made Rashtrapati Bhavan more accessible to citizens; made it a centre of learning, innovation, culture, science and literature,” the PM added.
Pranab Mukherjee became the 13th president of India (2012-2017) after a stellar career in the upper echelons of multiple governments. Universally acknowledged as Prime Minister material, although he went close to several times spread our three decades.
Although he was a trusted troubleshooter for three Congress prime ministers, Pranab Mukherjee’s climb up the political ladder stopped just short of 7 Race Course Road, instead sending him to the Rashtrapati Bhavan as the country’s first citizen.
A people’s person till the end, ‘Citizen Mukherjee’ used Twitter to communicate to the world that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on August 10. It was his last post, and his last words to the public.
Demonstrating his ability to quickly adapt to situations as they arose, Mukherjee was at ease with the new mode of communication. Twitter was a platform he used often, to express his condolences on the death of leaders and friends, greet people on festivals or wish them on their birthdays.
Some politicians don’t fade into the background. And so it was with the scholarly Mukherjee too. He remained a presence to contend with even after he demitted the office of president, often making headlines as he attended book launches and delivered lectures.
It was a life of many firsts and accomplishments for the man famed for his encyclopaedic memory, razor-sharp intellect and deep insight into issues.
In 1982, he became India’s youngest finance minister when he was just 47. In the years that followed, he served as India’s minister for external affairs, defence, finance and commerce and was the first Indian president to have done so.
Mukherjee managed the rare distinction of serving three prime ministers as minister — Indira Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh.
Mukherjee was also India’s only non-prime minister who was leader of the Lok Sabha for eight years. He was also leader of the Rajya Sabha from 1980-85.
There were other landmarks in a remarkable political career, which started in 1969 as a Rajya Sabha member for the Bangla Congress which subsequently merged with the Congress.
When he became president in 2012, Mukherjee was heading 24 of the 39 GOMs (groups of ministers). Between 2004-2012, he chaired 95 GOMs.
Mukherjee was famous in political circles as a consensus builder. He inspired trust among leaders across the political spectrum, an asset that proved handy at the time of his election as president.
It was a many splendoured political career, which ended at the presidential palace. But the prime minister’s post eluded him, even though it was a position he openly aspired for.
In his book ‘The Coalition Years’, Mukherjee acknowledged that he had hoped to get the post in May…
DC Web Desk
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