PRANAB .. Former President Pranab Mukherjee passes into history; six-day national mourning for nation

NEWS PRANAB DEMISE

NEW DELHI: Former president and erudite Congressman, Pranab Kumar Muherjee, passed away at the Army Research and Referral Hospital here this evening after a weeks-long battle for survival following a brain surgery. Mukherjee was in hospital since August 10, after he suffered a clot in brain following a fall in his home. 

Wife.. (Late) Surva

The demise of the 84-year-old leader was announced by his son Abhijit Mukherjee. Mukherjee’s wife Suvra Mukherjee predeceased him, in 2015. Daughter is danseuse Sharmishta Mukherjee. A quintessential Bengali Bhadralog and Brahmin, Mukherjee was an encyclopaedea of knowledge on every subject under the Sun and well-versed in statecraft through long years of experience with the central establishment. He was always dignified in his approach to matters and public life. A reason why, among the flock of unscrupulous politicians, he was a class apart, all his life.     

Daughter Sharmishta, son Abhijit

Academician-turned politician from a young age, Mukherjee was Member of Parliament seven times, headed almost all top ministries for varying periods. He was elected as President in 2012 for a five-year-term. Health was failing him of late. He had also tested positive for Covonavirus during a medical check-up shortly before he was hospitalized.

Mukherjee came to Parliament for the first time in 1969 as a member of the Bangla Congress, a breakaway faction of the Congress party. He became part of the Congress party led by Indira Gandhi when the Bangla Congress merged with it four years later, and he was inducted by Indira Gandhi for the first time as a junior minister for commerce. That was a time when he was known to have been helpful to the Ambani group, which was in its take-off years. Mukherjee became Union finance minister in 1982.

Shortly after Rajiv Gandhi took over as PM following the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, Mukherjee was ejected from the Union Cabinet and sent to West Bengal to lead the Congress party there. Indications were that Rajiv Gandhi was not comfortable with, or was suspicious of, Mukherjee. After a year in Kolkata, he broke from the Congress and formed the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress.

A story in Delhi’s political and media circles in the 1980s was about a conversation Mukherjee and Rajiv Gandhi had, while the two were being flown in  a special flight to Delhi following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. They were on an assembly election campaign mission for the Congress in the eastern regions. 

After the flight took off from Calcutta,  Rajiv Gandhi, then the Congress general secretary, called Pranab to his special enclosure inside the plane, and asked what next? Who could head the government as the next PM? Mukherjee replied to him that he was the senior-most minister; the hint being that he deserved to be the PM. Rajiv Gandhi apparently expected of Pranab to propose that he (Rajiv) must now take over as PM. 

By the time the plane landed in Delhi and Indira’s body lay in state, the inner circle of leaders and the Kashmiri Pandit coterie surrounding the Nehru family had finalized the plan – to install Rajiv Gandhi as PM to ensure succession of the Nehru family in power. Pranab obligingly supported the plan, and became a minister in the Rajiv dispensation but still failed to win the confidence of Rajiv Gandhi.

A seven-day mourning will be observed from August 31 to August 6, both days included. National flag will fly half-mast on office buildings and other installations as a mark of mourning across India, the Union Home Ministry has announced.

Stated President Ram Nath Kovind: “Sad to hear that former President Shri Pranab Mukherjee is no more. His demise is 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 and all citizens.”


Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “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 the society… I was new to Delhi in 2014. From Day 1, I was blessed to have the guidance, support and blessings of Shri Pranab Mukherjee. I will always cherish my interactions with him. Condolences to his family, friends, admirers and supporters across India. Om Shanti: PM Modi”

Stated former vice president Hamid Ansari: Deeply distressed. Knew Pranab Mukherjee for longest period of time. Had extremely cordial relations, which continued after he demitted office as President & I as VP. We last met in June. It was always a joy to listen to him”.

Pranab Mukherjee kept national interest supreme, didn’t believe in political untouchability. He was like a guide to RSS and affectionate towards us; his death irreparable loss to Sangh: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi stated, “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. My deepest condolences to the bereaved family and friends.”

PROFILE

Pranab Mukherjee was a political science professor in Birbhum before he entered politics. He also has an LLB to his credit.

Born in Mirati village in Birbhum district of West Bengal, on December 11, 1935, he entered Rajya Saba in 1969 as a member of the Bangla Congress. He was elected to Lok Sabha for first time in 2004. He remained as President from 2012 to 2017.

The NDA government, in a rare gesture to a leader from the Congress stable, awarded him Bharat Ratna in 2019. After becoming PM, Narendra Modi maintained a close contact with Mukherjee, and often took the latters advice in matters of governance. –IHN-NN

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