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New Delhi, August 31, 2020
Former President Pranab Mukherjee, one of the tallest leaders in contemporary Indian politics, who adorned several important slots in the Union Cabinet during a remarkable career over more than five decades and served as the Head of State from 2012-17, passed away at a hospital here today.
He was 84.
He is survived by two sons, Abhijit Mukherjee, a former Congress member of the Lok Sabha, and Indrajit Mukherjee, and a daughter, Sharmishta Mukherjee, a Congress leader based in Delhi. His wife Suvra had predeceased him in 2015.
The veteran Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister had served as the 13th President of India from July 25, 2012 to July 25, 2017.
Mukherjee had been admitted to the Army (Research & Referral) Hospital here on August 10 and had undergone an emergency surgery for the removal of a clot in his brain on that day.
He remained in a critical condition since then and was in a deep coma for the past many days.
This morning, the hospital said Mukherjee had suffered a decline in his medical condition and was in septic shock.
"There is a decline in the medical condition of Hon’ble Shri Pranab Mukherjee since yesterday," a bulletin issued by the hospital had said today.
"He is in septic shock due to his lung infection and is being managed by team of specialists. He continues to be in deep coma and on ventilator support," the bulletin had added.
While undergoing tests at the hospital on August 10, he was also found to be positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).
The news of his passing away was posted on Twitter by Abhijit Mukherjee.
"With a Heavy Heart , this is to inform you that my father Shri #PranabMukherjee has just passed away inspite of the best efforts of Doctors of RR Hospital & prayers ,duas & prarthanas from people throughout India ! I thank all of You," he said.
Over the years, Mukherjee came to be admired for his deep knowledge and understanding of India, especially its politics and economy, and his ability to reel off statistics and other details to support his arguments.
His election to the highest office of the land, as the 13th President of India, came as the crowning of a long career during which he acquired unparalled experience in governance, having served at different times as Foreign, Defence, Commerce and Finance Minister. He had also served as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.
He was elected to the Rajya Sabha five times from 1969 and twice to the Lok Sabha from 2004.
He served as a member of the Congress Working Committee, the highest policy-making body of the party, for 23 years.
During the tenure of the UPA government, in which Mukkherjee served from 2004-12, he headed as many as 95 Groups of Ministers on key issues and was instrumental in spearheading critical decisions of the Government on Administrative reforms, Right to Information, Right to Employment, Food Security, Energy Security, Information Technology and telecommunication, setting up of UIDAI, Metro Rail. and so on.
In the 1970s and '80s, he was instrumental in setting up the Regional Rural Banks (1975) and the EXIM Bank of India as well as National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (1981-82). He was also author of a modified formula for resource-sharing between the Centre and the States in 1991 which came to be known as the Gadgil - Mukherjee formula.
Mukherjee was widely admired for his oratory, scholarship and his intellectual and political prowesss and his undrstanding of international relations, financial affairs and parliamentary process.
In particular, he was acclaimed for his role as a consensus builder on difficult national issues through his ability to forge unity amongst the diverse political parties and groups.
Mukherjee was born on December 11, 1935 in the village of Mirati in Birbhum district of West Bengal to freedom fighters Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee and Rajlakshmi. His father was a Congress leader who had endured great hardship including being sent to jail several times for his role in India’s struggle for independence.
Mukherjee acquired a Master’s degree in History and Political Science as well as a degree in Law from the University of Kolkata.
He began his professinal life as a college teacher and a journalist but decided to plunge full-time into politics after his election to the Rajya Sabha in 1969.
He went on to become a Deputy Minister in Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's government during 1973-74, handling Industry, Shipping and Transport, Steel and Industry and Finance.
He was appointed Finance Minister for the first time by Indira Gandhi in 1983 and was also Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha from 1980-1985.
Later , he served as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission from 1991 to 1996, Minister for Commerce from 1993 to 1995, Minister of External Affairs from 1995 to 1996, Minister of Defence from 2004 to 2006 and once again the Minister of External Affairs from 2006 to 2009. He was the Minister of Finance from 2009 to 2012 and Leader of the Lower House of Parliament from 2004 to 2012 till he resigned to contest election to the office of the President.
Mukherjee had also served on the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank.
He led the Indian delegations to the Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ Conferences in 1982, 1983 and 1984; the United Nations General Assembly in 1994, 1995, 2005 and 2006, the Conference of Commonwealth Heads of Government at Auckland in 1995, the Non-Aligned Foreign Minister’s Conference at Cartagena in 1995 and the Conference to mark the 40th anniversary of the Afro –Asian Conference in Bandung in 1995.
Apart from being a prolific reader, Mukherjee also authored several books on the Indian economy and on nation-building.
He was honoured with the Bharat Ratna in 2019 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2008. He was chosen for the Best Parliamentarian Award in 1977.
Mukherjee married Suvra Mukherjee, an accomplished Rabindra Sangeet singer and artist. She passed away on August 18, 2015.