Politics

Former president Pranab Mukherjee turns 82 today!

11 Dec 2017 | By Krunali Shah
Former president Pranab Mukherjee's profile

The consummate politician, Pranab Mukherjee has famously been described as Congress's quintessential Man Friday. Ironically, he was rewarded with the President's post but was not trusted enough to be made PM.

A compulsive reader and constitutional expert, Pranabda doesn't suffer fools gladly.

Congress's grand old man, respected across party lines, celebrates his 82nd birthday today.

Read more about this Congress's ultimate insider here.

In context: Former president Pranab Mukherjee's profile

11 Dec 2017Former president Pranab Mukherjee turns 82 today!

Early yearsAn intelligent child, Mukherjee's career began as lecturer and journalist

Mukherjee, born to freedom fighter Kamada Mukherjee in Mirati (WB), admits to being a naughty child.

He credits his elephantine memory to childhood when mother, Rajlakshmi insisted him to recount the day's events for her, everyday.

A boy who hated walking 5kms to school, Mukherjee went on to earn a double MA and law degree. He began his career as a lecturer and journalist.

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Mukherjee remained an unabashed admirer of his mentor, Indira Gandhi

Why?Mukherjee remained an unabashed admirer of his mentor, Indira Gandhi

Mukherjee was hand-picked by the then PM Indira Gandhi when she saw his managerial skills as an election agent for Krishna Menon.

As an Indira-acolyte, Mukherjee entered Rajya Sabha in 1969. His rise was meteoric.

He made history by becoming India's youngest FM in 1982 in Indira's cabinet.

He brought in tax-reforms and was rated the world's best FM by Euromoney magazine in 1984.

DismissalAfter Indira's death, Mukherjee got sidelined for having Prime-Ministerial ambitions

On 31 August, 1984, Indira Gandhi died. Mukherjee discussed the matter of a potential successor with her son, Rajiv Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders.

As per precedent, he suggested that the senior-most minister be made caretaker PM.

Since he was the senior-most minister, Rajiv's close aides thought this indicated his ambition.

Subsequently, once Rajiv became PM, he kept Mukherjee out of the cabinet.

Political HibernationMukherjee forms new party, but later reconciles with Rajiv

Mukherjee was expelled from Congress in 1986, reportedly due to malicious gossip reaching the then PM Rajiv's ears. Consequently, Mukherjee formed his own party Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress (RSC), which was a dud.

Until 1989, when he and Rajiv mended fences, Mukherjee continued to remain in oblivion.

After Rajiv's death, Mukherjee and Narasimha Rao shared a warm relationship. Rao also inducted Mukherjee in his cabinet.

UPAsUPA-stints sealed his fate as the government's perennial number two

In the Congress-led UPA government, he was again overlooked for the PM's post. However, having learnt his lesson, Mukherjee continued serving Congress; he became indispensable for PM Manmohan Singh's government.

Mukherjee held external affairs, defense and finance ministries at different periods. Using his political acumen and goodwill, he steered the coalition expertly.

Also UPA's chief troubleshooter, in 2004-12, he held 95 Group of Ministers.

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PresidentAs president, Mukherjee didn't deviate from the constitutional "copybook"

In 2012, Congress nominated Mukherjee for presidentship, which he easily won. As is his style, he followed the Constitution 'to the T' while dispensing his presidential functions.

In his tenure, he rejected 30 mercy pleas, including Ajmal Kasab's and Afzal Guru's.

He allowed public visits to Rashtrapati Bhavan and refurbished the library.

He also remained neutral, maintaining a good rapport with the BJP government.

Interesting factsSome fascinating facets of Pranabda's personality and career

Mukherjee is a compulsive workaholic, working 18 hours/day. He only takes one holiday every year, for Durga Puja.

Interestingly, he was never a mass leader, as he contested and won the LS elections for the first time in 2004.

Besides this, Mukherjee reportedly didn't enjoy Congress president Sonia Gandhi's full confidence. However, Manmohan Singh feels Mukherjee would have made a better PM!