President Pranab Mukherjee hitches ride in IAF helicopter to reach Jayalalithaa’s funeral

President of India Pranab Mukherjee.
President of India Pranab Mukherjee.

NEW DELHI,Dec7: President Pranab Mukherjee finally made it to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s funeral on Tuesday after his Air Force-flown Boeing Business Jet developed a minor technical snag.

The snag forced the jet to return to Delhi where the technical problem – reportedly linked to its engines – was quickly rectified to enable the President to depart a short while later.

After landing in Chennai, the President, 80, had to shift to an Indian Air Force Mi-17 helicopter which flew him to Marina Beach so he could attend Jayalalithaa’s funeral.

Unlike the Air Force’s luxurious Boeing 737-BBJ, the interiors of the Mi-17 transport chopper that ferried Mr Mukherjee to Marina Beach are relatively spartan and the President was seen buckled into a sideways-facing bench-seat. The IAF’s Mi-17s are primarily transport helicopters.
Mr Mukherjee was reportedly insistent on going to Chennai to pay his respects to Ms Jayalalithaa, a politician he said he had known for many years. In a series of tweets on Monday night, he spoke glowingly of the 68-year-old Chief Minister, saying the nation had “lost an icon loved and admired by millions”. “She had a wonderful mastery of facts and theories…She was a fighter and fought till the last moment,” he had also said.

The powerful and popular Amma, as she was fondly called by legions of supporters in Tamil Nadu, died on Monday evening after a cardiac arrest. She was buried at Marina Beach, next to mentor and former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran.

Besides President Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Chennai to pay his respects to Jayalalithaa. So did some of the country’s most powerful politicians – union minister Venkaiah Naidu, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, and chief ministers of eight states, including Akhilesh Yadav, N Chandrababu Naidu and Arvind Kejriwal.

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