Pranab Mukherjee, a man of all seasons

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Nation, Politics

Pranab da played a crucial role in earning an exemption for India from the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Pranab Mukherjee (PTI photo)

Pranab Mukherjee or Pranab da was the President of India from 2012 to 2017. The 84-year-old was detected with COVID-19 on Monday when he was tested prior to the surgery to remove a brain clot. In fact, Mukherjee himself tweeted about his COVID status and urged people who had come in contact with him in the last one week to isolate and get tested for the virus.

A powerful orator, scholar and a statesman, Mukherjee had been a Congress stalwart before he was elected as India's 13th President. Prior to this he had held the posts of defence, finance, external affairs, commerce, shipping, industries ministers during the Congress and UPA regimes from time to time. In fact, he was the Best Finance Minister in World, according to a survey of Euro money magazine in 1984.

He had entered politics and the Indian Parliament in 1969 after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi helped him enter Rajya Sabha on a Congress ticket. He soon went on to become Mrs Gandhi’s most trusted man and a minister in her cabinet in 1973. He was re-elected in Rajya Sabha in 1975, 1981, 1993 and 1999. An important leader for the Congress party, Mukherjee was the go to man for all senior to junior party leaders till the time he was sidelined by Mrs Gandhi’s son Rajiv Gandhi following her assassination in 1984. Mukherjee drifted away and formed his “Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress” which he later merged back to the Congress in 1989 after truce with Rajiv.

Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination brought Pranab Mukherjee back to limelight as former PM,  PV Narsimha Rao handed him the responsibility of the Planning Commission (1991) and Foreign Affairs Ministry (1995). Later, he strongly backed Sonia Gandhi and guided her as she entered the Congress as an active politician in 1998.  Mr Mukherjee contested Lok Sabha elections for the first time in 2004 when the UPA came to power. As a skillful administrator and seasoned politician, Mukherjee used to preside over cabinet meetings in the absence of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

Known as “man for all seasons,” Mukherjee played a crucial role in getting through the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal – 123 Agreement — and earning an exemption for India from the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Mukherjee remains popular in both India and Bangladesh for his family connection – his wife late Suvra Mukherjee was born and brought up in Narail in Bangladesh before moving to Kolkatta at the age of 10.  Bangladesh had in 2013 honoured Mukherjee with Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sanmanona for his contribution to the Liberation War in 1971 as a "foreign friend".

He was awarded Padma Vibhusan in 2008 and Bharat Ratna in 2019.