Troubleshooting minister to popular President: Pranab Mukherjee in politics

President Ram Nath Kovind confers Bharat Ratna upon former president Pranab Mukherjee during a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi | File Photo: PTI
Former president Pranab Mukherjee passed away on Monday at Delhi’s Army’s Research and Referral (R&R) Hospital. He was 84.


Mukherjee, whose career spanned more than five decades, served as a Congress party politician, parliamentarian respected across party lines, minister in charge of the most demanding portfolios, and finally as the President of India. Mukherjee was a minister in every Congress government since 1971. As defence minister, he was responsible for increasing the military budget; as minister of external affairs, he played a crucial role in the signing of Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement in 2008; and as finance minister in the UPA II government, he was criticised for introducing retrospective amendments to the Income Tax Act.


Here’s a brief history of the distinguished politician


Mukherjee is born on December 11, 1935, in Mirati village in Bengal (now West Bengal). He studied history, political science and law at the University of Calcutta.


1963-1968: Early career


Mukherjee works as an upper-division Clerk in the Office of Deputy Accountant-General (Post and Telegraph) in Calcutta. In 1963, he becomes Lecturer of Political Science at Vidyanagar College and also takes up a job as journalist with the Desher Dak.


1969: Mukherjee enters politics


Indira Gandhi recognises Mukherjee's talent after he successfully manages the Midnapore by-election campaign of independent candidate, V K Krishna Menon. In July 1969, he becomes a member of the Rajya Sabha and is re-elected to that House in 1975, 1981, 1993 and 1999.


1973-1977: Role in the Emergency


In 1973, Mukherjee is appointed Deputy Minister of Industrial Development. The Shah Commission, appointed by the Janata Party government, accuses him of using extra-constitutional powers to "wreck established norms and rules of governance" during the 1975-1977 Emergency. However, he emerges unscathed from the charges.


1979-1984: Finance Minister and Rajya Sabha leader


In 1979, Mukherjee becomes deputy leader of the Congress party in the Rajya Sabha and is later appointed Leader of the House in 1980. He serves as Finance Minister from 1982 to 1984.


1985-1991: Indira and Rajiv Gandhi's assassinations


Mukherjee is out of favour in the Congress after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. The next year, he splits from the Congress and forms his own party in West Bengal. Mukherjee and Rajiv Gandhi, who is prime minister now, reconcile soon enough and the Bengal politician returns to the Congress. After Rajiv's assassination in 1991, Mukherjee is seen as a potential prime minister but P V Narasimha Rao takes the post.


1991-1996: Resurrection


In 1991, Rao appoints Mukherjee as deputy chairman of the Planning Commission. Mukherjee later takes up the role of External Affairs Minister from 1995 to 1996 in Rao's Cabinet.


1998-99: Role in Sonia Gandhi's entry into politics


Mukherjee, who is considered the architect of Sonia Gandhi's entry into politics, is made General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee in 1998–99. In 2000, he is appointed President of the West Bengal Congress: a post he goes on to hold until his resignation in 2010.


2004-2012: Mukherjee's role as 'Mr Dependable'


He handles defence, external affairs, and finance ministries in separate terms during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance's time in power.


2012: India's First Citizen


Pranab Mukherjee ends his association with the Congress party after he retires from active politics to contest Presidential elections.


Mukherjee is sworn in on July 25, 2012 as the thirteenth President on India, becoming the first Bengali to hold the post. As President, Mukherjee promulgates Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, which provides for amendment of Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on laws related to sexual offences. Mukherjee rejects at least 24 mercy pleas, including that of convicted terrorists Yakub Memon, Ajmal Kasab, Afzal Guru.


In January 2017, Mukherjee says that he would not contest for 2017 Presidential elections, owing to failing health. He is awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna in 2019.


August 31. 2020


Mukherjee dies on August 31 in Delhi’s Army’s Research and Referral (R&R) Hospital, where he had been admitted a few days previously for a brain surgery. He had tested positive for the coronavirus disease before undergoing a successful surgery to remove a brain clot.

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