Navigator of Dignified Politics

    09-Sep-2020
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Former President of India Pranab Mukherjee said he was comfortable at the height where destiny had put him- 
-Nilima Pathak

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Every time one called up Pranab Mukherjee’s office when he was External Affairs Minister in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance(UPA) government, a voice would say, ‘PM’s office’. During an interview chat, I asked him if it was an indication of the times to come?
 
Mukherjee looked amused and remarked, ‘Not at all! They could be saying EAM’s office. Or maybe, are using my initials. I am not aware!’ Quizzically, he looked at his secretary, who merely smiled.
 
 
VICE PRESIDENT VENKAIAH NAIDU
 
“The country has lost an elder statesman in his death. He rose from humble beginnings to occupy the country’s highest constitutional position through hard work, discipline and dedication,” the Vice President Secretariat tweeted quoting Shri. Naidu.
 
Mukherjee brought dignity and decorum to every post held by him during his long and distinguished public service, the vice president observed. “My deepest condolences to the bereaved family members. Om Shanti,” he said.
 
 
 
Mukherjee did not become the Prime Minister. Instead, he was chosen as the President of India in 2012. He had said, “I personally believe that the office of the President of India is not to be sought. It is to be offered.”
 
Popularly referred to as Pranab Da, he knew when and how much to speak.
 
A master strategist
 
In a political career spanning five decades, the measure of his importance can be estimated from the fact that even while serving as external affairs minister, he also functioned as the finance minister. Considered a troubleshooter and the most indispensable person in the Congress party, the master strategist, who often kept even his own party guessing, never displayed any signs of nervousness – be it over a series of corruption scandals in the party or a slowdown in the Indian economy.
 

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A smart operator with political acumen, the grand old man knew how to forge alliance partners whenever it came to forming a government at the Centre or the states.
 
“Running a coalition government in a country like India is a difficult task…. To have a coalition, to run a coalition government, you require a lot of adjustments, a lot of flexibility,” he admitted.
 
 
PRESIDENT RAM NATH KOVIND
 
Sad to hear that former President Shri Pranab Mukherjee is no more. His demise is passing of an era. A colossus in public life, he served Mother India with the spirit of a sage.
 
The nation mourns losing one of its worthiest sons. Condolences to his family, friends & all citizens.
 
Endowed with perspicacity and wisdom, Bharat Ratna Shri Mukherjee combined tradition and modernity. In his 5 decade long illustrious public life, he remained rooted to the ground irrespective of the exalted offices he held. He endeared himself to people across political spectrum.
 
As the First Citizen, he continued to connect with everyone, bringing Rashtrapati Bhavan closer to the people. He opened its gates for public visit. His decision to discontinue the use of the honorific 'His Excellency' was historic.
 
 
 
However, he considered that having alliance partners was a temporary phenomenon. “At the time of elections, in a multi-party system, every political party tries to expand its area of influence and strengthen its position. In that process, there is keen competition among the parties for space, so there are changes in alliances. After all, it is a matter of reaching the Parliament,” justified the leader who headed several top ministries, including the foreign, home, defence and trade.
 
Appreciated PM’s vision
 
The no-nonsense veteran leader had more friends than foes across all political parties. Mukherjee had a good camaraderie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They admired each other’s leadership qualities and shared a mutual respect. The acquaintance happened much before the two occupied the country’s top posts. Mukherjee valued and appreciated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader’s vision. In turn, PM Modi acknowledged Mukherjee’s affectionate and caring nature.
 
In July 2017, the PM wrote a letter to Mukherjee, who was to demit office a day later. The note read, “Three years ago, I came to New Delhi as an outsider. The task before me was huge and challenging. In these times, you have always been a father figure and a mentor to me. Your wisdom, guidance and personal warmth have given me greater confidence and strength.”
 
Mukherjee posted it on Twitter with a message that the letter had “touched my heart!” Despite being from different political ideologies, the bonhomie between the two leaders continued. In 2019, when Modi was sworn as PM for the second time, he called on Mukherjee and sought his blessings.
 
 
Shri Pranab Mukherjee's departure is an irreparable loss: RSS
 
RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat and Sarkaryvaah Suresh Bhayyaji Joshi have expressed deep condolences over the demise of former President Shri Pranab Mukherjee. In a statement issued from Nagpur, Sarsanghchalak and Sarkaryvaah have said that with Pranab Mukherjee's demisse, it will not be easy to fill this void in the politico-social life of Bharat.
 
"An able administrator and statesman, keeper of the spirit of national interest paramount, connecting with everyone beyond political differences - equally respected in all parties, soft-spoken and endearing former President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, completed his life journey today and left for the heavenly abode", says the statement.
 
Mourning the loss, they say that it will not be easy to fill this void in the politico-social life of Bharat. "He was a guide for us because of his care and interest about Sangh (RSS). His departure is an irreparable loss to the Sangh", they said.
 
"We convey our deep condolences to all the family members and pray the Almighty to grant an immortal place for Pranab Da at his auspicious feet", concludes the statement. 
 
 
 
Above party lines
 
In 2018, Mukherjee sent ripples in the political circles by deciding to participate in a function to be held at the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra. But it goes to the former President’s credit that despite many leaders from the Congress feeling uncomfortable and urging Mukherjee to reconsider his decision, the latter considered the invitation was above the party lines.
 
He attended the third year SanghaShikshaVarga (SSV)programme as chief guest. Addressing RSS recruits from across the nation, Mukherjee expressed his views that were almost identical as those of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Stating that attempts to define India’s nationhood on the basis of religion would “dilute our nationality”, Mukherjee won the hearts of both politicians and analysts by adding, “The soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance. This plurality of our society has come through assimilation of ideas over centuries. Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us.That is what makes Bharat a diverse and united nation.”
 
 
UNION HOME MINISTER AMIT SHAH
 
“Deeply anguished on the passing away of former President of India, Bharat Ratna Shri Pranab Mukherjee ji. He was a vastly experienced leader who served the nation with utmost devotion. Pranab da’s distinguished career is a matter of great pride for the entire country,” Shri. Shah tweeted.
 
“His demise has left a huge void in Indian polity. My sincerest condolences are with his family and followers on this irreparable loss. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti,” the minister said.
 
 
Political roots
 
Mukherjee’s father KamadaKinkar Mukherjee was a freedom fighter, who spent 10 years in British prisons. Since politics was the primary subject discussed in the house, it was not long before Mukherjee became a full-time politician. Prior to that, he worked as a clerk in the Post and Telegraph Department in Calcutta. Later, he became a lecturer of Political Science at Vidyanagar College. He also had a stint in journalism and law.
 
PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI
 
India grieves the passing away of Bharat Ratna Shri Pranab Mukherjee. He has left an indelible mark on the development trajectory of our nation. A scholar par excellence, a towering statesman, he was admired across the political spectrum and by all sections of society.
 
During his political career that spanned decades, Shri Pranab Mukherjee made long-lasting contributions in key economic and strategic ministries. He was an outstanding Parliamentarian, always well-prepared, extremely articulate as well as witty.
 
As India’s President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee made Rashtrapati Bhavan even more accessible to common citizens. He made the President’s house a centre of learning, innovation, culture, science and literature. His wise counsel on key policy matters will never be forgotten by me.
 
I was new to Delhi in 2014. From Day 1, I was blessed to have the guidance, support and blessings of Shri Pranab Mukherjee. I will always cherish my interactions with him. Condolences to his family, friends, admirers and supporters across India. Om Shanti.
 
 
 
His political career started in 1969 when offered a RajyaSabha seat by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the age of 33. Mukherjee first entered the Parliament on July 13, 1969, when the monsoon session began. He was unknown then. But four decades later, when the man with a phenomenal memory and spectacular career left the Parliament House, he was one of the most widely respected politicians the country had seen.
 
Words of advice
 
Speaking on the subject of politicians facing criticism, he said, “Political leaders are appreciated after their death. Now, we are neither fighting for freedom struggle, nor is there any kind of revolution. It is to run the government; and in a democratic system, running the government is always subject to criticism. But people are justified because, at times, some members behave irresponsibly and cause disruptions in the Parliament. So, without making distinctions, all politicians are labelled and criticized for wasting public money. Such criticism is good for politicians. They need self-analysis and must take corrective measures.”
 
BJP PRESIDENT J.P. NADDA
 
Expressing grief over the demise of former President Pranab Mukherjee, BJP president JP Nadda said he served the country with diligence and was admired across party lines.
 
“Saddened by the demise of former President and statesman Shri Pranab Mukherjee. He has served the Country in many roles with diligence and determination. He is widely admired across the parties for his intellect and perseverance . My condolences to his family and followers,” Shri. Nadda said on Twitter.
 
 
Irony of life
 
Life came full circle for Mukherjee in 2019. From choosing Bharat Ratnas to awarding them as the country’s President, he received India’s highest civilian honour at the behest of PM Modi. Ironically, BJP’s distinguished leader and former Prime Minister of India Atal Behari Vajpayee had received the Bharat Ratna from him in 2015.