Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee dies at 84

Family announces death of former president who was admitted in hospital weeks ago, having also contracted COVID-19.

In this file photo taken on September 10, 2016 the then India''s President Pranab Mukherjee reviews a passing out parade of cadets during their graduation ceremony at the Officers Training Academy in C
Veteran Indian powerbroker and former President Pranab Mukherjee, once described in leaked US diplomatic cables as 'the ultimate Congress Party fixer and operator', has died [Arun Sankar/AFP]

Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has passed away at the age of 84, his family said.

Mukherjee died of multiple organ failure on Monday after being admitted to hospital weeks ago, having also contracted coronavirus.

A senior leader of India’s Congress party who served in multiple cabinets during five decades, Mukherjee had emergency surgery for a blood clot in his brain on August 10 at New Delhi’s Army Hospital Research and Referral after suffering a fall.

The hospital said he tested positive for COVID-19 after the surgery and his condition was critical. He remained in a coma after the surgery.

The hospital said his health began declining on Monday after a lung infection resulted in septic shock.

His son, former legislator Abhijeet Mukherjee tweeted on Monday evening that he had died.

“His demise is passing of an era,” the office of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said in a Twitter post.

‘A colossus in public life’

Mukherjee served as president from 2012 to 2017, at the end of a long period when the Congress party held power.

The office is largely ceremonial in India, with executive powers resting with the prime minister.

Before that, he had been minister of finance, defence and foreign affairs for three separate prime ministers and helped manage their fractious governing coalitions.

Mukherjee was a college teacher in West Bengal state before first running for public office in 1969.

He became a protege of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was loyal to her during the Internal Emergency she had proclaimed from 1975 to 1977, when elections were suspended and civil liberties were curbed. Many of her opponents were imprisoned.

He lost his position as finance minister after Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 and her son Rajiv Gandhi became prime minister.

Mukherjee formed his own party, but later reconciled with Rajiv Gandhi and returned to the Congress party in 1989.

After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991, Mukherjee joined the Cabinets of his successors, PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh.

Mukherjee was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 2019.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from the rival nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said Mukherjee “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,” Modi said on Twitter.

Current President Ram Nath Kovind called Mukherjee “a colossus in public life” who served India “with the spirit of a sage”.

Mukherjee is survived by two sons and a daughter. His wife died in 2015.

Source: News Agencies