Former President of India Pranab Mukherjee announced earlier this week that he has tested positive for COVID-19. The former head of state joins a number of leading Indian political figures afflicted by the disease, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or simply coronavirus.
Mukherjee, aged 81, took to Twitter to divulge the news. “On a visit to the hospital for a separate procedure, I have tested positive for [COVID-19] today,” he wrote. “I request the people who came in contact with me in the last week, to please self isolate and get tested for COVID-19.” Since then, reports indicate that Mukherjee is in critical condition. He is on ventilator support at the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi, where he was first admitted for removal of a clot. “Presently he is haemodynamically stable and on a ventilator,” the hospital said.
Mukherjee, a member of the Indian National Congress (INC), served as President of India between 2012 and 2017 under former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Prior to his presidency, Mukherjee occupied a number of senior roles in the Union Government, holding the portfolios of Finance, Defence and External Affairs at various points during his career. Mukherjee has also served as leader of both houses of the Indian Parliament, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
Wishes for Mukherjee’s wellbeing poured in from figures across the political spectrum following his announcement of his diagnosis, including incumbent Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The official Twitter account of the Rashtrapati Bhavan tweeted that Mukherjee’s immediate successor as President, Ram Nath Kovind, “spoke to [Sharmistha Mukherjee, Mukherjee’s daughter] and inquired about the health of her father…the President wished him a speedy recovery and good health. Mukherjee’s immediate successor.” The INC’s official account tweeted “we wish former President Shri Pranab Mukherjee a speedy recovery from Covid.”
In the days since, Sharmistha Mukherjee has spoken out about her father’s condition. “May God do whatever is best 4 him & give me strength 2 accept both joys & sorrows of life with equanimity,” she tweeted. “I sincerely thank all 4 their concerns.” The Hindustan Times reports that “villagers in Mukherjee’s ancestral village in West Bengal started a Maha Mrityunjaya yajna on Tuesday for the speedy recovery of the former president.”
A number of other high-level Indian political figures have contracted COVID-19. They include Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah; B. S. Yediyurappa, the Chief Minister of Karnataka; Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh; and Banwarilal Purohit, the Governor of Tamil Nadu.
At the time of writing, India has confirmed more than two million coronavirus infections. The country’s confirmed case count to date is 2,333,166 according to Worldometer. Of these cases, 646,487 are active with 1,640,463 having recovered and 46,216, sadly, having lost their lives.