‘R V’, as R Venkataraman, India’s eighth President, was popularly known, died on Tuesday at 98 — following multiple organ failure after two weeks of hospitalisation. The government declared a seven-day state mourning and cancelled official ceremonies, including the Beating Retreat ceremony and the PM's NCC Rally held annually as part of the Republic Day celebrations.
The Union Cabinet, which was presided over by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, decided to accord a state funeral to Venkataraman near Ekta Sthal at 4.30 pm on Wednesday. Venkataraman left behind his wife Janaki and three daughters.
RV had to take many decisions in a period that had challenging constitutional and political issues, which included the dispatch of Indian troops to Sri Lanka , the Bofors Gun deal, the Stock Scam and the Defamation Bill.
But he was not just a ‘copybook’ President he thought he was during his occupancy of Rashtrapati Bhavan from July 25, 1987 to July 25, 1992. It was an eventful tenure that saw three Prime Ministers — V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar and P.V.Narasimha Rao being sworn-in in two years as the coalition politics made its beginning in India.
Though a stickler for rules and procedures, RV wanted changes in the Constitution despite the fact that he himself had been the member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted it. His experience with coalition politics led to his openly advocating a national government for political stability — in case of a fractured verdict. RV even spoke against the coalition form of government.
Even after exiting the Rashtrapati Bhavan, RV stayed in the news. In 1999, RV said in an interview that President K. R. Narayanan was wrong in not inviting Sonia Gandhi to form the government when she claimed the majority support after fall of the Vajpayee government. As Congressman, RV belonged to the Kamaraj era. RV’s first reputation was made in Tamil Nadu when he, along with the late C Subramaniam, pioneer of the Green Revolution, worked in the Cabinet. He laid the base for auto and other industries that Tamil Nadu is now known for today.