Pranab Mukherjee has retired. His long political life has drawn to a close. He bid farewell to the parliament on Sunday, saying, “I am a creation of this parliament.”
He said that he spent 37 years of his life as a member of parliament. When he was just 34 years old, he recalled, he had the opportunity to serve the country along with veteran politicians. He called upon all to remain conscious of their duties. He said that the parliament was a place for debate and discussion. If the parliament came to a standstill, it was the opposition that suffered the most loss.
From 25 July he has become the former president. The new president Ramnath Kovind takes oath and the outgoing president takes him to his new address at No. 10 Rajaji Marg. APZ Abdul Kalam lived here too.
Pranab Mukherjee has moved his collection of books out too and settled them in his new abode. He loves reading and books are his companions in retirement. He loves Rabindranath’s songs too.
After a long five decades of an eventful political career, he will not simply retire into oblivion. Sources close to the former president say he is interested in opening a research institute or think-tank. He would like to spend his time working on political and defence issues. If his wish materializes, he will be the first president to create and run a think-tank.
Actually, Pranab Mukherjee as actually quite thrilled at becoming president at the end of his political career. He has said that he missed the excitement of parliament and politics. But he took up the office willingly. Coming to Raisina Hills, he was full of new ideas. He opened the president’s house to the people. He gave everyone the opportunity to see the possessions within. He invited artists and writers to stay at the president’s house and carry out their creative work. He would even invite foreign heads of government to stay at the president’s house as his guest. His love for Bangladesh was evident in his having Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Bangladesh’s renowned artist Shahabuddin come to say at his official residence as guests.
He is he first president to create history by imparting history lessons to school children on Teachers’ Day. His last official programme as president was at Jangipur in Murshidabad, West Bengal. It was here that he first contested in direct elections and was elected. Prior to that, he had been indirectly elected as representative of the Rajya Sabha. That is why at the eve of his retirement he expressed his deep love for the people of Jangipur from where he first had the opportunity to join the Lok Sabha.
Pranab Mukherjee was born on 11 December 1935 in the remote village of Mirithi of Birbhumi district in West Bengal. They were a Congress family, his father a top district leader of the party. So he was brought up in a political environment. He would walk a few kilometers to school, sometimes even in waist deep water during the monsoons. He studied political science, history and law. He was in journalism too at one time and was also a teacher.
It was in 1969 at the behest of Indira Gandhi that Pranab Mukherjee directly joined politics. And he hasn’t looked back since then. Indira Gandhi had made an accurate assessment of Pranab Mukherjee and too him to Delhi after nominating him for the Rajya Sabha.
Sharp, farsighted, level-headed and decisive, Pranab Mukherjee became the No. 2 person in Congress. Indira Gandhi would tease him, saying if you knock on Pranab’s head, only smoke from his pipe will emerge! This friends and acquaintances knew that his face never revealed his emotions within.
He was a relentlessly hard worker, working up to even 18 hours a day. There were very few multitalented ministers like him. He displayed extreme efficiency in running the defence, commerce, foreign and finance ministries. He was recognized internationally as a finance minister. He is the only president of India who presented the budget seven times in parliament.
Pranab enjoyed enviable importance in Congress’ inner politics. He was called whenever anything important needed to be drafted. It was he who drafted Sonia Gandhi’s speech about conscience keeping her away from becoming prime minister.
Only once was there a hiccup in Pranab’s political career. After Indira Gandhi’s death, he had differences with Rajiv Gandhi and left Congress to form the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress Party. That was a mistaken move which he later admitted. In 1989 he returned to the Congress fold and became a central minister once more.
Pranab is the only finance minister who was in charge of the finance ministry before reforms and after. He was also a successful leader of the party in parliament.
And now he is focusing how to make his mark at his age of 81, on the state and the society. He is likely to get down to the job immediately, after perhaps a brief respite.
He wants to draw together thinkers from home and abroad, researchers, professors, state leaders, economists and experienced politician to devise a direction.
After five active years at the top of state and national politics, he had forged close ties with many heads of state and government in Bangladesh and other SAARC countries, as well as in Russia, Europe and America. On this list are Hamid Karzai, Nawaz Sharif, Condoleezza Rice, Vladamir Putin and many, many more such personalities. After becoming president, he also became close to many African leaders as well. It is thus thought his foundation or think-tank will certainly have an international flavor.