Nation's Prez, a workaholic
Pranabís phenomenal journey to top
Whispered as Chanakya by his party colleagues, the 13th President of the nation, Pranab Mukherjee has the rare distinction of having served at different times as foreign, defence and finance ministers.
A voracious reader, Mukherjee frequently works past midnight and said in an interview that his only interaction was often limited to giving his wife a goodnight peck before retiring to bed.
He also commands tremendous respect across the political spectrum for his ability to neutralise problems, both of the party and the government, with impeccable credibility.
A powerful orator and a formidable negotiator, Mukherjee came to acquire in his five decades of parliamentary politics traits that have earned him the admiration of even his political foes. He is considered a walking encyclopaedia on virtually everything related to politics and governance that makes it difficult for any bureaucrat to hoodwink or trap him.
His parliamentary career began in 1969 in his home state, West Bengal, where the Naxalites were on the rampage at that time. He kept getting nominated to the Rajya Sabha till 2004 when he was elected to the Lok Sabha.
The major break in Mukherjee’s political career came when he threw his weight behind Ajoy Mukherjee, a fine leader who was unfairly expelled from Indian National Congress by Atulya Ghosh who controlled the West Bengal Congress with an iron hand.
Mukherjee, who was elected to Rajya Sabha as a member of Bangla Congress, a party formed by Ajoy Mukherjee after expulsion, hit the limelight when, during Emergency, Indira Gandhi needed a new minister of state for revenue in the finance ministry and in something of a hurry her choice fell on Pranab Mukherjee and remained so until 1977.
There was no looking back after that because in 1980 though he lost the Lok Sabha election, Indira, in recognition of his meritorious services and loyalty to her at a time when Congress leaders were deserting her, included him in her cabinet as commerce minister and got him elected to Rajya Sabha from Gujarat and later made him the finance minister.
Variety in responsibility
From the time he first became a minister in Indira Gandhi’s government in 1973, Mukherjee has held a variety of portfolios in successive governments including foreign, defence and finance.
In between, Mukherjee went through a bad phase when, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, he fell out of favour with Rajiv Gandhi. He remained out in the cold for a long time, during which he formed a Congress splinter group that died a quick death.
But once he returned to the government, particularly under Manmohan Singh, he emerged with his prodigious bank of knowledge and varied political experience as the principal trouble-shooter and consensus-creator in the government.
He is the man Congress has turned to whenever there is a crisis and each time, Mukherjee has risen to the occasion, and even if he has not always succeeded, he invariably left a mark in parliamentary debates.
All through his political career, he has been successful in maintaining an unblemished image and upholding probity in public life.
An immaculate trouble-shooter, Mukherjee has never taken a holiday except for his annual spiritual jaunt when he has a tryst with his favourite deity, Goddess Durga, at his ancestral home in Mirati village in Birbhum district, about 200 km from Kolkata where he religiously performs the rituals, reads from the “Sree Sree Chandi” sacred text and fasts during the three days of Durga Puja.