Noting that many people could not attend the cremation of Pranab Mukherjee because of the COVID-19 situation, his son Abhijit Mukherjee on Tuesday said the family would have considered taking the mortal remains of the former president to West Bengal for the last rites if restrictions were not in place. Mukherjee, who had tested positive for coronavirus and had been in coma after a brain surgery last month, passed away Monday evening at the Army's Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi at the age of 84.
Abhijeet said the cremation of the former president could not be attended by many because of the COVID-19 situation. "We would have considered taking his mortal remains for last rites to West Bengal where our relatives and many who are associated with our family live," he said.
Some members of Mukherjee's family and relatives paid their last respects clad in PPE kits while conforming to COVID-19 safeguards at the Lodhi Road electric crematorium. Abhijit thanked people for reaching out to his family first with prayers when his father was in hospital and then expressing their condolence over his demise, through phone calls and social media posts.
"Many people wanted to attend his cremation, but it was not possible due to the COVID-19 situation. We thank all the people who stood with us during this hour of grief," he said. Calling his father a "born soldier" who always fought the odds whether in his student life, as a lawyer or a politician, he said, "When I contested the assembly polls in 2011, he advised me never to hold any grudge or feeling of revenge against anyone." Abhijit said his father used to say "lawmakers should not be lawbreakers".
A few Congress workers and some well wishers of the former president were also present at his cremation. "My father Devendra Prasad Yadav and 'Pranab da' had gone to college together and served as ministers together as well at the Centre," said Yadav's son Brijendu Yadav who was present at the crematorium along with his sisters Jaishree and Shubhra.
Former Union minister and senior Congress leader from Bihar, Devendra Yadav, died last month due to a heart ailment. "We have almost five-decades-long relations with the Mukherjee family. I even campaigned for Pranab da when he contested the Lok Sabha election from Jangipur seat in 2009," Brijendu said.
Retired IPS officer SS Sandhu recalled his long association with Mukherjee. "He was very down to earth. I had close relations with him that lasted for four decades. I served under him when he was the finance minister of the country," Sandhu said.
Mukherjee was admitted to the Army's Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi on August 10 and was operated the same day for removal of a clot in the brain. He had also tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of his admission. The former president later developed a lung infection. Mukherjee was the 13th President of India from 2012 to 2017.