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Know Pranab Mukherjee, the quintessential Congressman

PTI 22 Jun 2012, 10:49:24 IST
New Delhi, June 15: Known for his razor sharp intellect and memory and a quintessential Congressman, Pranab Mukherjee will make a huge transformation if he wins the Presidential race for the high Constitutional job capping a 45 year long run in active politics.

Nominated as its candidate by the UPA, whose troubeshooter he was for the last eight years, the 77-year-old leader from West Bengal is variously described as a walking encyclopedia, chronicler of Congress history, expert in matters of Constitution and governance and a stickler for rules in Parliament.

Ever seen as the perennial ‘No 2' in the Congress, on whose ticket he became a Rajya Sabha member for the first time in 1969, Mukherjee may have missed becoming the Prime Minister on a couple of occasions but still he was the man to whom the government looked to during times of crisis.  

Even his nomination as a candidate for President's election sparing him from the government has come after a huge dilemma for the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who trusted him as a deft manager of the government that has often moved from crisis to crisis in both the versions.  

Of course, Mukherjee had his own bad days in Congress which he had to quit in the mid 80s after he had evinced interest in becoming the Prime Minister on the death of Indira Gandhi in 1984.

It took some time before he came back into the party but once he was in there was no stopping his rise once again.  

Mukherjee, who was elected to Rajya Sabha in 1969, was for a long time member of the Upper House before his first direct election to Lok Sabha in 2004 from Jangipur in West Bengal. He repeated his victory in 2009 elections but had expressed a desire not to contest elections again in view of his advancing age.

Mukherjee was a powerful Minister of State for Revenue during Emergency and in nine years from 1973, he rose to become the Finance Minister in Indira Gandhi's Cabinet.  

Again his importance was seen when the late P V Narasimha Rao made him Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission as well as Minister of External Affairs. In between he had to quit because he ceased to be a member of Parliament and came back to the Cabinet after re-election.  

Mukherjee started his public life in the 60s in Bangla Congress during the time of late Chief Minister Ajoy Mukherjee of the United Front government when Jyoti Basu was Deputy Chief Minister in West Bengal. He was general secretary of Bangla Congress.

A post-graduate in political science and history, he can recollect any event of historical importance or mundane political and other events, a matter of envy to many of his colleagues.

His profile on the Lok Sabha's website says Mukherjee “was considered top ranking Minister and presided over the Cabinet meetings of the Union in the absence of the Prime Minister during 1980-1985”.

Son of a senior Congress leader Kinkar Mukherjee from West Bengal, Pranab had a brief stint as lawyer, teacher and journalist before he was embedded to his destiny of politics in 1969, when be became a member of Rajya Sabha. 

Recording a quick growth in his political career soon after, Mukherjee, who became a Minister of State for Industrial Development in 1973 rose to become the country's Finance Minister (1982-1984)during Indira Gandhi's period, a post which he held again in the UPA 2 under Manmohan Singh's government.