April 15, 2021

Pranab Mukherjee: The parallel protagonist

NEW DELHI: Pranab Mukherjee was a custom-made multipurpose political automobile. Most hard-boiled politicians in Congress have been in awe of Mukherjee, groomed by Indira Gandhi from 1971 until her loss of life, who turned a uncommon strategic machine of Congress within the 1990s until he turned President in 2012. His abilities elicited respect from leaders of the ruling BJP and events throughout the political aisle however saved 10 Janpath in perpetual unease.

The various skills of Mukherjee, 84, who handed away on Monday, have been effectively demonstrated throughout his profession spanning over six many years. He was a cerebral politician with an astute institutional understanding and a grip on working the federal government, key ministries, Parliament, Structure and the political system.

His scientific grasp of the intricate functioning of Congress, energetic participation in its endless clashes of concepts and personalities and conspiracies, helped him emerge as a pure coalition supervisor and a flourishing survivor within the slippery inside corridors.

Having thrived within the heydays of one-party rule, Mukherjee’s shift from being the chief theorist of Congress’ 1998 Panchmari Declaration — “coalition politics is a passing section and we’ll come again once more” — to post-2003 ‘Shimla Sankalp’ to emerge as chief coalition counsellor in UPA bore testimony to his ‘khiladi’ report. But, the veteran was thrilled as an adolescent on his first date when he lastly shed the Rajya Sabha tag and received his first Lok Sabha election in 2004 from West Bengal’s Jangipur.

A brief mood, an exceptional reminiscence and an automatic ‘namaskar’ have been all options of Model Mukherjee. He had no pretensions of an angel however embraced the exhilaration and ignominy of energy politics with aplomb. Mukherjee was among the many pioneers who laid the highway linking Political Delhi with Company Mumbai. But, the perennially demanding reforms gallery loathed Finance Minister Mukherjee’s center path. He, in flip, delivered a parting shot in his swansong price range of 2012 with ‘retrospective tax’. Later, he rubbed it in with a question: “Regardless of the angst that my proposal generated, I’m wondering why each succeeding FM up to now 5 years maintained the identical stance.”

The dyed-in-the-wool Cong-ressman and unabashed ‘Indiraite’ remained embedded in India’s pluralist, secular and democratic moorings however abhorred politics of exclusion, secular exhibitionism and the one-way avenue on communal sensitivity. The saffron gallery stirred with pleasure and his ex-colleagues teetered nervously when the excessive priest of Congress visited the RSS headquarters on its invitation after retiring from his presidency. As soon as he got here out of the ‘Nagpur vyuh’ after delivering a speech underlining his unwavering and long-cherished beliefs, a relieved AICC held a late-evening information convention to hail him “for turning the mirror on the RSS”, although some nonetheless rue his go to.

Mukherjee joined Congress by way of Bangla Congress in 1970 and scaled heights earlier than he was 50 when Indira Gandhi even made him her digital No. 2 within the Union Cupboard, superseding veterans together with PV Narasimha Rao and R Venkataraman, who later turned PM and President, respectively. His standing within the final Indira Cupboard turned a burden on Mukherjee after her assassination. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi dropped him from the Cupboard, CWC, Congress Parliamentary Board and expelled him from the social gathering after his Doon College advisors, particularly Arun Nehru, injected suspicion within the politically uncooked PM that Mukherjee had prime ministerial ambitions and was plotting towards him.


Receiving Bharat Ratna in 2019

As Rajiv Gandhi’s regime began sinking following the Bofors row and his favourites crossed over to the opposition, he introduced again Mukherjee (and RK Dhawan) into Congress. “Many issues stated about them, I discovered, weren’t true,” Rajiv Gandhi stated in an interview. “All I can say is that he (Gandhi) made errors and so did I. He let others affect him and listened to their calumnies towards me. I let my frustration overtake my endurance,” wrote Mukherjee in his memoirs.

Maybe because of that uneasy previous, Sonia Gandhi’s management was by no means totally comfortable with Mukherjee. Sarcastically, it was Mukherjee who helped CWC innovatively interpret aclause within the Congress structure to sack Sitaram Kesri and make Sonia Gandhi the social gathering president in a single day.

Although he was not a part of her coterie, Mukherjee very quickly turned indispensable to the UPA regime by leveraging his multi-tasking abilities.

Sonia Gandhi denied Mukherjee the prime ministership twice, the second time in 2004, when as social gathering president she nominated technocrat-turned politician Manmohan Singh as PM. 13 years earlier, as Rajiv Gandhi’s widow, she proposed the ‘safer’ Shankar Dayal Sharma, and when he declined, PV Narasimha Rao as PM, over Mukherjee and challenger Sharad Pawar. Mukherjee recorded his sense of denial in his memoirs.

Narrating his assembly with Sonia Gandhi, Singh and Ghulam Nabi Azad, after she turned down the PM put up, Mukherjee’s memoirs stated: “She (Sonia) informed me she didn’t wish to be the rationale for a pointy division in society due to her elevation to the put up of the prime minister… Lastly, it was left to her to decide on the PM… Inside the Congress, the consensus was that incumbent have to be a political chief with expertise in social gathering affairs, administration… she (Sonia) named Dr Manmohan Singh as her alternative and he accepted.

The prevalent expectation was that I might be the subsequent alternative for Prime Minister after Sonia Gandhi declined. This expectation was presumably primarily based on the actual fact I had intensive expertise in authorities, whereas Singh’s huge expertise was as a civil servant with 5 years as a reformist finance minister.”

5 years later, when PM Singh underwent a coronary heart surgical procedure forward of 2009 LS polls, the Congress management didn’t appoint an performing PM however made certain Mukherjee, although senior-most, shared Singh’s duties with colleague AK Antony. Manmohan Singh publicly stated after his 10-year stint: “In 2004, Soniaji selected me to be the Prime Minister.

Pranabji was essentially the most distinguished colleague that I had. He had each motive to really feel a grievance, that he was higher certified than I used to be to turn into the PM. However, he additionally knew I had no alternative within the matter.” Mukherjee was additionally denied the Congress presidentship as soon as. In his memoir, Mukherjee hinted at an undisclosed stress on his buddy Rao to not (initially) embrace him within the Union Cupboard in 1991 and in selecting Kesri as social gathering chief when Rao stop in 1996. Mukherjee was additionally denied the put up of President of India in 2007. He recorded intimately how Sonia Gandhi informed him he couldn’t be spared of his essential position within the UPA authorities forward of the 2007 and 2012 presidential polls, however his dedication prevailed the second time.

Mukherjee ultimately levelled the size on his phrases after changing into the much-applauded sheet anchor of the UPA regimes. He deftly deliberate and executed his entry into Rashtrapati Bhavan by making his candidature a fait accompli for the Congress management. He capped his profession with a Bharat Ratna, conferred by a authorities against his ‘ism’ however felt obliged by his presidential steering which additionally relished the actual fact the medal would bruise a sure ego.

The way in which he made himself indispensable to Sonia Gandhi, flourished within the UPA and at last walked away with the very best medals with out her patronage makes him the ‘parallel protagonist’ of Congress. The very fact Mukherjee left on his phrases, whereas Sonia’s authentic loyalists ML Fotedar, Arjun Singh and Natwar Singh have been humiliated and deserted serves as a warning on perils of blind loyalty to the present crop of Congressmen. As pressure grows in Congress — amid deepening unease between seniors and Staff Rahul-Priyanka, unabated political and organisational drift in management and the Gandhi family title dropping electoral sheen — the Mukherjee template could come in useful for a minimum of among the leaders.