Pranab Mukherjee: Remembering 'Intellectual Protagonist' among politicians

    01-Sep-2020   
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His life was a full cycle. Pranab Mukherjee worked closely with Indira Gandhi, business magnate Dhirubhai Ambani, differed with Rajiv Gandhi, came back to the Congress and became No. 2 again under PV Narasimha Rao, Sitaram Kesri and again Sonia Gandhi. Later he served as President of India and was honoured with Bharat Ratna by the Narendra Modi government.

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A veteran that he was - Pranab Mukherjee saw the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi come and go. But how did he describe the period? “…at that time (I was a junior Minister) did not then understand its (Emergency’s) deep and far-reaching impact”. But look at the manner in the same breadth, as President he also spoke about the ‘positivity’ of Emergency.
 
In his book, ‘The Dramatic Decade - The Indira Gandhi Years’ (published 2014) in the chapter '‘Jayaprakash Narayan’s offensive', Mukherjee wrote - "...there is no doubt that it brought with it some major positive changes – discipline in public life, a growing economy, controlled inflation, a reversed trade deficit for the first time…..".
 
Bharat Ratna Pranab Mukherjee is no more.
 
Born on December 11, 1935, his life and politics have been a true case of someone who has seen it all. He has truly seen the unraveling of many chapters of Indian politics. He held key positions, - President of the Republic, Finance Minister, Defence and External Affairs Ministry charge as well. But somehow he missed the 'Home portfolio' and during UPA-2; one Home Minister in the Manmohan Singh own cabinet (P Chidambaram) allegedly spied on him.
 
About Emergency, he also had said: “…rationally speaking I could not support the movement. To me it appeared to be directionless. It was contradictory in that it was a movement fighting against corruption yet composed of people and parties whose integrity was not above board". Of course in later years, Pranab da emerged as “the man for all seasons” for the Congress leadership and the different Prime Minister(s) in office.
 
His life was a full cycle. He worked effortlessly and closely with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, business magnate Dhirubhai Ambani, differed with Rajiv Gandhi, came back to the Congress and became No. 2 again under PV Narasimha Rao, Sitaram Kesri and again Sonia Gandhi.
 
Someone who did not mind working as a Cabinet Minister under Dr Manmohan Singh, who was his subordinate by years, it is paradoxical of fate and politics that in 2019 it was left to Narendra Modi-regime to honour him with the country's highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna.
 
If people linked it to West Bengal politics and BJP gaining popularity, it ought to be pointed out that in his long career, Pranab Mukherjee was also called a 'rootless wanderer' as he was essentially a Rajya Sabha man. Only in 2004, Mukherjee had won his first Lok Sabha seat from Jangipur.
 
Someone who did not mind working as a Cabinet Minister under Dr Manmohan Singh, who was his subordinate by years, it is paradoxical of fate and politics that in 2019 it was left to Narendra Modi-regime to honour him with the country's highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna.
 
In 2018, he also hit headlines when he addressed a RSS meet. BJP patriarch LK Advani had welcomed the historic gesture. The former Deputy Prime Minister had said Mukherjee’s visit to the RSS headquarters despite his decades of association with the Congress was a reflection of his “grace".
 
“It was an illuminating exposition of the noble idea and ideals of Indian nationalism,” Advani had commented hailing Mukherjee’s address at the RSS meet. Advani also had said that he believed that Pranab Mukherjee and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat “have truly set a praiseworthy example of dialogue transcending ideological affiliations and differences". There have been other things written and spoken about this intellectual and protagonist-politician.
 
The book 'The Polyester Prince – The Rise of Dhirubhai Ambani’ written by Hamish McDonald says: “According to New Delhi’s grapevine, the old P-D-A axis (short form is mine and D stood for R K Dhawan and A for Ambani axis) responsible for Reliance’s booming fortunes is currently reorganizing its scattered forces with V P Singh, the Finance Minister (under Rajiv Gandhi – blogger), as its principal target”.
 
The book also spoke about “first casualties” under Rajiv Gandhi and they were “key friends of Dhirubhai”. Rajiv Gandhi had sacked R K Dhawan from the Prime Minister’s Office within hours of his appointment and he also had made VP Singh the new Finance Minister replacing Pranab Mukherjee. Some of the stories those followed were episodes of contemporary Indian history. 
 Pranab Mukherjee knew how to keep secrets. Indira Gandhi once said: "If you hit on Pranab Mukherjee's head, smoke could come out from his pipe, but no secrets".