09/01/2020, 15.20
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Indian Catholics mourn the death of former President Pranab Muckerjee

by Nirmala Carvalho

For Card Gracias, his death leaves a great void in the country's political life. Card Alencherry cites his commitment to national unity and religious harmony. Analysts highlight his skills as negotiator, as well as his controversial tenure as finance minister. No Indian president has rejected as many applications by death row inmates as he did.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Indian Catholics are mourning the death of former President Pranab Muckerjee, who passed away yesterday at the age of 84 following brain surgery and COVID-19 infection.

The long-time Indian National Congress leader served several times as minister in the cabinets of Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh.

He is considered the architect of the political rise of Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born wife of the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, killed in 1991 by Tamil terrorists.

For Card Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, Mukherjee's death leaves a great void in Indian politics. “The Church in India will miss him very much for his political statesmanship, moral integrity and for his fine oratorical skills,” the cardinal said.

Noting his vast knowledge of the Bible, shown during the Christmas celebrations organised by the Bishops' Conference in 2018, the cardinal was grateful to Muckerjee for supporting and encouraging the Christians and their activities.

In his message of condolence, Card George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, underlined Muckerjee's commitment to national unity and religious harmony, adding that his exemplary life in national politics would be an inspiration to all those engaged in public service.

Muckerjee was viewed as a skilled politician, capable of building consensus between his party and its allies, something that cannot be taken for granted in India’s chaotic and contentious politics.

Appreciated by the public for his role in passing laws on food safety and the right to information, he was Minister of Finance from 2009 to 2012, not without controversy. Many blamed him for "overheating" the country’s economy, pushing up inflation and interest rates.

As president, Muckerjee rejected pardon requests from 30 death row inmates, including the terrorists responsible for the 2001 attack in Delhi on the Indian Parliament, and the attacks in Mumbai of 1993 and 1998. No Indian president turned down as many applications by death row inmates as he did.

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