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Former Indian president Pranab Mukherjee dies at 84

Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, who had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, died on Monday after weeks in hospital, his son and the current president's office said.

Former Indian president Pranab Mukherjee dies at 84

FILE PHOTO: India’s President Pranab Mukherjee delivers a speech at a reception in Beijing, China on May 25, 2016. (Reuters/Jason Lee)

NEW DELHI: Former Indian president Pranab Mukherjee, who had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, died on Monday (Aug 31) at the age of 84, after weeks in hospital, his son and the current president's office said.

He died of multiple organ failure after being admitted to hospital weeks ago, having also tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug 10.

A veteran politician who served as foreign and finance minister in previous administrations, Mukherjee was in a deep coma and on ventilator support after coming down with a lung infection.

"His demise is passing of an era," the office of President Ram Nath Kovind said in a tweet.

The Bengal-origin politician was a protege of former premier Indira Gandhi and was a member of her cabinet when she suspended democratic rights in the infamous "Emergency" of 1975 to 1977.

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

He briefly broke away from Congress, but after Rajiv Gandhi was killed in 1991, his political fortunes revived.

He became Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's right-hand man during his decade in power from 2004 to 2014, serving as defence, foreign and finance minister, winning a cross-party reputation as a skilled negotiator.

However, Mukherjee's performance as finance minister was criticised for his failure to push through economic liberalisation measures.

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from the arch-rival nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said Mukherjee "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," Modi said on Twitter.

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

Source: AGENCIES/lk

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