India's 13th president, Pranab Mukherjee, one of India's most respected leaders across the political spectrum, died on Monday evening following a 21-day battle with multiple ailments. He was 84.
His death was condoled by leaders across political lines, as well as the sports and film fraternity. The Centre announced a seven-day national mourning period from 31 August to 6 September.
"During the period of state mourning, the national flag will fly at half-mast on all buildings throughout India, where it is flown regularly, and there will be no official entertainment," the MHA statement said.
The funeral will be held at 2 pm on Tuesday at the Lodhi Road crematorium, PTI quoted his family as saying.
Mukherjee, who was admitted to the Army's Research and Referral Hospital on 10 August and was operated for a removal of a clot in the brain the same day, is survived by two sons and a daughter.
The long-time Congress leader and seven-time parliamentarian, known for his encyclopedic memory and insights into varied issues, had tested also positive for COVID-19 at the time of his admission and was being treated for a lung infection.
He suffered a septic shock on Sunday and died of a cardiac arrest at 4.30 pm on Monday, the hospital said. A health bulletin on Monday morning said he was in a deep coma and on ventilator support.
His son Abhijit Mukherjee was the first to break the news of the death of the veteran politician.
Role as Congress' troubleshooter
Mukherjee was also Congress' troubleshooter, and became India's youngest finance minister when he was 47 years old. He also held the portfolios of External Affairs and Defence in the years that followed.
"With a Heavy Heart, this is to inform you that my father Shri Pranab Mukherjee has just passed away inspite of the best efforts of Doctors of RR Hospital and prayers, duas and prarthanas from people throughout India! I thank all of You," he said on Twitter.
His daughter Sharmishta also wrote a heartfelt message on Twitter, saying she felt "blessed" to have been his daughter. "You have led a full, meaningful life in service of the nation, in service of our people," she added.
"¦¸¦¬¦¾¦°§ ¦¦®¦¿ ¦ª§¦°¦¨¦¾¦® ¦¦°§ ¦¯¦¾¦" I bow to all🙏
Baba, taking the liberty to quote from your favourite poet to say your final goodbye to all.
You have led a full, meaningful life in service of the nation, in service of our people.
I feel blessed to have been born as your daugher. pic.twitter.com/etYfZXzZ1j
" Sharmistha Mukherjee (@Sharmistha_GK) August 31, 2020
The West Bengal government said that all state government offices will remain closed on Tuesday as a mark of respect for Mukherjee. West Bengal was his home state.
Known as a consensus builder, Mukherjee spent much of his five decades in public life as a Congress worker but also inspired trust among leaders across political divides.
As condolences poured in for Mukherjee, who served as the India's first citizen from 2012 to 2017, President Ram Nath Kovind described Mukherjee's demise as the 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 & all citizens," Kovind said on Twitter.
Endowed with perspicacity and wisdom, the Bharat Ratna awardee combined tradition and modernity, Kovind said.
As the First Citizen, he continued to connect with everyone, bringing Rashtrapati Bhavan closer to the people. He opened its gates for public visit. His decision to discontinue the use of the honorific 'His Excellency' was historic.
" President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) August 31, 2020
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Mukherjee in his decades-long political journey made long-lasting contributions in key economic and strategic ministries.
He was an outstanding parliamentarian, always well-prepared, extremely articulate as well as witty, Modi added in a series of tweets.
Modi also posted his pictures with Mukherjee, including one in which he is seen touching the then-president's feet.
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 society. pic.twitter.com/gz6rwQbxi6
" Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 31, 2020
"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," he added.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party leader Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, and Randeep Singh Surjewala, among other members of the party expressed grief over Mukherjee's demise.
In her condolence letter to Sharmistha, Sonia said his life over the past five decades mirrored 50 years of India's history.
Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi expresses her condolences to Sharmistha Mukherjee on the passing away of her father, Former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee. pic.twitter.com/zMUz11TNff
" ANI (@ANI) August 31, 2020
"He brought distinction to every post he held. He established a genuine rapport with colleagues across the political spectrum, and he served our country with the utmost dedication," she said.
"Pranab Da had been such an integral and prominent part of national life, the Congress party and the central government for over five decades, it is hard to imagine how we can do without his wisdom, experience, sage advice and deep understanding of so many subjects," she added.
Singh said he had learnt a lot from him and depended on him a great deal for his wisdom, vast knowledge and experience of public affairs.
"In his death, our country has lost one of its greatest leaders of Independent India. He and I worked very closely in the Government of India and I depended on him a great deal for his wisdom, vast knowledge and experience of public affairs," he said.
Rahul said, "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."
Among other leaders, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu said the country has lost an elder statesman in his death. "He rose from humble beginnings to occupy the country's highest constitutional position through hard work, discipline and dedication," he said.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, condoling his death, described Mukherjee as a "guide" for the Sangh and said he didn't believe in political untouchability.
Mukherjee didn't practice political untouchability and was respected by all parties, the RSS' statement said. "He was a guide for Sangh and was affectionate towards the organisation and his passing away is irreparable loss to the RSS," it added.
Union ministers Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Harsh Vardhan and Prakash Javadekar, Thawar Chand Gehlot, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, among others, also condoled Mukherjee's demise and paid rich tributes to him.
Shah expressed deep anguish over Mukherjee's death, saying his demise has left a huge void in the Indian polity.
He said, "Pranab Da's life will always be cherished for his impeccable service and indelible contribution to our motherland. His demise has left a huge void in Indian polity. My sincerest condolences are with his family and followers on this irreparable loss. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti."
Meanwhile, Javadekar said the country has lost one of its finest sons.
Rajnath said Mukherjee epitomised simplicity, honesty and strength of character. Additionally, Smriti Irani said Mukherjee's "warmth, dedication and vision has left an indelible mark".
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also expressed deep anguish over Mukherjee's demise and called his erudition and wisdom "really inspiring".
Mukherjee " was often seen leading Durga Puja prayers in his village, even in his president years " was the man who took on all political jobs with ease.
When he became president in 2012, Mukherjee headed 24 of 39 GOMs (groups of ministers). Between 2004-2012, he chaired 95 GOMs.
With inputs from agencies