The entire nation grieves as former President of India and Bharat Ratna recipient Shri Pranab Mukherjee left for his heavenly abode on August 31, 2020. One of the finest statesmen India has ever seen, Pranab Mukherjee, fondly called Pranab Da, will be greatly missed. His great contributions and service to our country will be hailed by generations to come.
In a gigantic political career spanning over more than five decades — from being a Rajya Sabha MP to the President of India — Pranab Da brought in dignity and sincerity to every position he held and gave his utmost best to the nation. Prior to being elected to the highest office of the country, he’d served in several high ranking ministerial portfolios.
Before becoming of the most important and dynamic leaders of modern India, Pranab Mukherjee, who hailed from Bengal, served as a lecturer in Kolkata while working as a journalist for Desher Dak. He was also one of the founding members of the Bangla Congress, a regional political party formed in 1966 due to a split in the Indian National Congress.
Mukherjee subsequently entered the main political arena of the country in 1969, when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi got to know of his intellectual abilities and savoir faire, offered him a Congress ticket to the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. Throughout the years, he was groomed by Indira and eventually became one of her most trusted political lieutenants in the party, owing to his brilliant thinking and decision making abilities. Hailed as the ‘Man of all seasons’, Mukherjee always came to the rescue of the Congress party and government whenever crisis struck, all thanks to his detailed knowledge of both domains of governance.
During his glorious and long political tenure, he served in almost all of the senior-most portfolios the Indian government had to offer. He has served as the Finance Minister, Defense Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister among others, apart from occupying the highest constitutional position of the country. However, one position that evaded him, that too twice, was that of the Prime Minister.
Mukherjee, a man who possessed both practical skills and knowledge, could’ve done wonders to our country had he got the opportunity to serve as the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, he was sidelined and pushed to the periphery of the party by a less experienced and young Rajiv Gandhi, who became the Prime Minister. He wasn’t even given a Ministerial berth by Rajiv once he became the PM, and gradually, got expelled from the mainstream.
Eventually, Mukherjee founded another party of his own in 1986, the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress (RSC) in West Bengal. However, three years later, he reached upon a compromise agreement with Rajiv and the party was merged with the Congress. Further, following the UPA victory in 2004, it was largely expected that Mukherjee might become the Prime Minister due to Sonia Gandhi’s ineligibility. The party went with Manmohan Singh, a person who’d initially worked under him as the RBI Governor. It was under Manmohan Singh’s reign that Mukherjee was shouldered with various important portfolios, and Singh heavily relied on him.
From improving the country’s finances at a time the shadow of the IMF loomed over the country in the 1980s, to expanding India’s cooperation with the US and opening up the gates for India to participate in civilian nuclear trade, the list of Pranab Da’s contributions goes on! Even as the President, he didn’t confine himself to the ceremonial picture of the position, but brought in some real change.
He tried to democratise the presidency by reducing the protocols and restrictions imposed on guests invited to Rashtrapati Bhavan as well as celebrating and conducting most of the ceremonial Presidential events within the Rashtrapati Bhavan itself, so as to avoid disruption of traffic or any other inconvenience caused to the public due to the travel of the President.
Further on, he also became the first Head of State to teach school children during the final years of his Presidency by holding occasional classes for a batch of 80 students of Class 11 and 12 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Thus, versatility, statesmanship, vision and exemplary intelligence are what come to mind when one thinks about Pranab Da, the leader who India will miss dearly!