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Ex-Prez Venkataraman dead, Beating Retreat cancelled

Former president R Venkataraman died at the Army Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi today following prolonged illness, an official said. He was 98.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2009 20:20 IST

Former president R Venkataraman, who ushered in the country's first coalition government in 1989, died in New Delhi on Tuesday after a prolonged illness, officials said. He was 98.

Venkataraman breathed his last at 2.30 pm at the Army Research and Referral Hospital where he was admitted Jan 12 with urinary infection. He also needed respiratory support.

Venkataraman was the country's eighth president, from July 25, 1987 to July 25, 1992. He was earlier the vice president from 1984.

A veteran member of the Congress, he swore in VP Singh as prime minister in 1989 following elections that produced a hung Lok Sabha. It was the country's first coalition government.

President Pratibha Patil, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh mourned Venkataraman's death. The government has announced a seven-day state mourning, from Jan 27 to Feb 2.

President Patil said in a message: "In his passing away, the nation has lost a true patriot and a distinguished luminary."

Manmohan Singh added: "He was an outstanding figure of our public life. He will be long remembered for his services to the nation, his strength of character and his knowledge and wisdom."

Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said party president Sonia Gandhi and the Congress condoled the death of one who "had a distinguished political career at every level spanning decades".

During the mourning period, the national flag will fly at half mast on all buildings throughout India, the home ministry said.

The government also announced the cancellation of the Jan 29 Beating Retreat ceremony as a mark of respect to the former president.

Born Dec 4, 1910 in Rajamedam in Tamil Nadu's Thanjavur district, Venkataraman obtained a law degree from Chennai's Law College. He married Janaki in 1938 and they had three daughters.

He took part in the Quit India movement of 1942 and was jailed for two years.

First Published: Jan 27, 2009 16:04 IST