Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has passed away at the age of 84, his family said.
Mukherjee died of multiple organ failure on Monday after being admitted to hospital weeks ago, having also contracted coronavirus.
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 Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said in a Twitter post.
‘A colossus in public life’
Mukherjee served as president from 2012 to 2017, at the end of a long period when the Congress party held power.
The office is largely ceremonial in India, with executive powers resting with the prime minister.
Before that, he had been minister of finance, defense and foreign affairs for three separate prime ministers and helped manage their fractious governing coalitions.
Mukherjee was a college teacher in West Bengal state before first running for public office in 1969.
He became a protege of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was loyal to her during the Internal Emergency she had proclaimed from 1975 to 1977, when elections were suspended and civil liberties were curbed. Many of her opponents were imprisoned.
He lost his position as finance minister after Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 and her son Rajiv Gandhi became prime minister.
Mukherjee formed his own party but later reconciled with Rajiv Gandhi and returned to the Congress party in 1989.
After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991, Mukherjee joined the Cabinets of his successors, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh.
Mukherjee was awarded India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, in 2019.
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”.
Mukherjee is survived by two sons and a daughter. His wife died in 2015.