Former President Pranab Mukherjee, the elder statesman of Indian politics, described by many as the “best Prime Minister India never had” , died at age of 84. He was tested positive for COVID-19 and had been on ventilator since a month.

Mr Mukherjee was born to Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee, a freedom fighter, in a village in West Bengal’s Birbhum district.

After studying politics, history and law in Calcutta University, he worked as a teacher, a journalist and a lawyer before joining politics in 1969.

Pranab was one of the rare union ministers to hold the charge of three key portfolios – finance, defence and external affairs

He was among the sharpest minds in his field, with an understanding of politics, economic policies as well as strategic issues.

He was a minister in almost every Congress government since Indira Gandhi helped him get elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1969. Expelled from the Party during Rajiv Gandhi’s Prime Minister-ship, he formed the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress in 1986. He returned when Rajiv Gandhi invited him back and merged his party with the Congress in 1989.

Mukherjee’s first major political appointment was as the Union Deputy Minister for Industrial Development in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet. He later served as Finance Minister (1982-84), commerce minister (1993-1995), as external affairs minister (1995-96) and as defence minister in the Manmohan Singh government (2004-2006). He was also appointed as leader of Rajya Sabha in 1980 and in Lok Sabha in 2004, when he won his first state elections and later in 2009.

He was widely expected to be Sonia Gandhi’s choice for Prime Minister after she refused to take the top job in 2004. But she picked Manmohan Singh.

He ended a spectacular career with the post of 13th President of India, from 2012 to 2017. He has also rejected around 30 mercy petitions including those of 26/11 attacker Ajmal Kasab and Yakub Memon.

He had been awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour in 2019

Mukherjee’s autobiography

The Turbulent Years: 1980–1996.

The Coalition Years: 1996–2012

Endowed with perspicacity and wisdom, Pranab Mukharjee combined tradition and modernity. In his 5 decade long illustrious public life, he remained rooted to the ground irrespective of the exalted offices he held. He endeared himself to people across political spectrum.

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