Nostalgia marks Pranab farewell

Rarely does a meeting of the Congress Working Committee turn emotional. But Monday’s CWC session was a memorable one as it bade a touching farewell to its senior-most member, Pranab Mukherjee, who is virtually set to enter Rashtrapati Bhavan soon as India’s President. 

“This is my last CWC meeting. After this I will not be able to attend future CWC meetings,” Mukherjee said, drawing the curtains on a five-decade association with the party. 

Known as a workhorse of the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Mukherjee was described by senior Congress leaders as a “walking encyclopaedia” on a wide range of issues, considering his long years of experience in the government.

Most members of the party’s highest policy making committee who met at 10 Janpath—the residence of party president Sonia Gandhi—were confident of an easy victory for the UPA nominee in the presidential election, thanks to a division in the rival National Democratic Alliance. But they were also sad that the Congress would be losing the services of its chief troubleshooter.

For Mukherjee, who will demit the office of the finance minister on Tuesday, it will be a break in his long association with the CWC. He has been a member of the party’s highest policy making organ since 1978. He was not in the CWC when he went out of the party in the 1980s (from 1986 to 1989). Mukherjee returned to the CWC in 1992.

Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally bade farewell to the veteran leader. Describing Mukherjee as the senior-most member of the CWC, Sonia said it was a matter of great pleasure that he was “not only the Congress candidate but also the unanimous choice of the UPA” for the presidential election.

She stressed that the political parties outside the ruling coalition supporting Mukherjee was a recognition of his stature.
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