Former President Pranab Mukherjee was cremated with full state honours at the Lodhi road electric crematorium on Tuesday afternoon. His son Abhijit Mukherjee performed his last rites. Mukherjee's family and relatives paid their last respects clad in PPE kits while conforming to Covid-19 safeguards. An Army contingent gave a guard of honour and a gun salute to the former president.
The mortal remains of Mukherjee were earlier brought to the crematorium in a flower-bedecked vehicle. His body was clad in the tricolour. Mukherjee (84) died on Monday evening at the Army's Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi cantonment following a 21-day battle with multiple ailments.
Mukherjee’s mortal remains were laid at his residence for three hours from 9 am to 12 pm a host of leaders and others visited his 10 Rajaji Marg residence to pay their last respects. Among them were Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and defence minister Rajnath Singh also paid their last respects.
Wearing masks and maintaining a six-feet distance, people and political workers cutting across party lines stood in long queues to see the former president at his residence for one final time, as the nation observed seven-day mourning in honour of its "Bharat Ratna".
India’s 13th President was admitted to the hospital 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 and went into septic shock. He breathed his last at 4.30pm on Monday.
The government announced seven-day state mourning from August 31 to September 6. 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 home ministry said in a statement.
Mukherjee's son Abhijit was the first to break the news of the death of the veteran politician, the Congress' troubleshooter through the decades who became India's youngest Finance minister when he was just 47 and 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," his grieving son said on Twitter.
As condolences poured in for India's 13th president, who served as the country's first citizen from 2012 to 2017, President Ram Nath Kovind described Mukherjee's demise as the passing of an era. Expressing his condolences, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described him as a scholar par excellence and a towering statesman who was admired across the political spectrum. "India grieves the passing away of Bharat Ratna Shri Pranab Mukherjee. He has left an indelible mark on the development trajectory of our nation," Modi tweeted.
Known as a consensus builder, the West Bengal born Mukherjee spent much of his five decades in public life as a Congress worker but also inspired trust among leaders across political divides. Mukherjee - who made it a point to remain in touch with his roots and 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.