Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee dies at 84

Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has died aged 84, his family has said.

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

A seasoned politician who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance in previous administrations, Mukherjee was in a deep coma and on life support after contracting a lung infection.

“Her disappearance is passing an era,” Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s office said in a Twitter post.

‘A colossus in public life’

The Bengal-born politician was a protégé of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was a member of his cabinet when she suspended democratic rights in the infamous 1975-77 “emergency”.

Mukherjee’s star declined after Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 when he was a rival to his son and heir Rajiv Gandhi for the leadership of the Congress party.

He briefly walked away from Congress, but after Rajiv Gandhi was killed in 1991, his political fortunes came to life.

He became Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s right-hand man during his tenure in power from 2004 to 2014, as Minister of Defense, Foreign Affairs and Finance, earning a multi-party reputation as a skilled negotiator.

However, Mukherjee’s performance as finance minister has been criticized for his inability to push through economic liberalization measures.

In 2012, he stepped away from active politics and assumed the mostly ceremonial role of president, serving a five-year term until 2017.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata party said Mukherjee “has left an indelible mark on our nation’s development path”.

An academic par excellence, an imposing statesman, he was admired in all political circles, ”Modi said on Twitter.

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

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