Farewell, Pranab Da. The Man Who Wanted to Be PM But Made a Fine President


Farewell, Pranab Da. The Man Who Wanted to Be PM But Made a Fine President

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Former President Pranab Mukherjee, who had recently been admitted to a Delhi hospital for brain surgery, passed away on Monday evening, his son said. He was 84.

One of India’s most admired political leaders, Mukherjee was admitted to hospital on August 10 after a fall at his Rajaji Marg Home left him with a blood clot in his brain.

Doctors who treated the former president said earlier on Monday morning that his condition had taken a turn for the worse, and that he was in a septic shock due to an infection that developed in his left lung. His son, Abhijeet Mukherjee announced in the evening that his father had passed away, despite the doctors’ best efforts.

The former president’s daughter, Sharmistha Mukherjee said on Twitter that her father had led a full, meaningful life in service of the nation, and in service of our people.

The seven-time parliamentarian, who was associated with the Congress party all through his decades long career, was both a teacher and journalist before entering politics. That changed when he was elected as a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1969, a post he went on to retain for the next five elections to the Upper House.

Mukherjee won his first Lok Sabha seat in 2004, by which point he had served in Indira Gandhi’s council of ministers, and held important Cabinet portfolios related to finance, commerce, defence, and external affairs. He had prime ministerial ambitions, something he wrote about in his memoir The Coalition Years — 1996 – 2012 but the Congress had other plans. In 2012, he was elected as President of India, a title he held until 2017.

Many described him as the “best PM India never had”.

President Ram Nath Kovind led the tributes to the statesmen on Twitter, calling him one of the nation’s worthiest sons, and a colossus in public life.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who nominated the former president for the Bharat Ratna in 2019, said Mukherjee was a scholar par excellence, and a towering statesman. Home Minister Amit Shah said his demise had left a void in Indian polity.

Fellow Congressmen, including Rahul Gandhi, also paid homage to the former president, and stalwart of the Congress party.

One of the few men to have worked alongside three Indian prime ministers — Indira Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh — Mukherjee was also fondly remembered by a number of public figures, including Indian cricketers Ajinkya Rahane and Anil Kumble, and actors Raveena Tandon and Ajay Devgn.

The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Nepal’s PM K P Sharma Oli, were among the world leaders who shared their condolences on Twitter.

In the last few weeks, there has been an outpouring of support for the former president, who had been in a coma for most of the last month following the unfortunate fall. With the news of his death on Monday, August 31 will go down in history as the date our country lost one of its finest leaders.