Former President Pranab Mukherjee
Former President Pranab Mukherjee
File Photo

A quintessential party loyalist and the trusted Man Friday of three Congress prime ministers, Pranab Mukherjee's climb up the political ladder stopped just short of his ambition to occupy 7 Race Course Road, instead sending him to the Rashtrapati Bhavan as the country's first citizen. Mukherjee, India's 13th president, Congress' troubleshooter through the decades and one of the country's most respected politicians.

A people's person till the end, 'Citizen Mukherjee' used Twitter to communicate to the world that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on August 10. It was his last post, and his last words to the public as breathed his last on August 31 at a Delhi hospital.

Some politicians don't fade into the background. And so it was with the scholarly Mukherjee too. He remained a presence to contend with even after he demitted the office of President, often making headlines as he attended book launches and delivered lectures.

Serving as the President of India from 2012 to 2017 - spanning the second term of the Congress-led UPA government and the first of the BJP-led NDA government - Pranab Mukherjee maintained cordial relations with leaders across party lines. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, earlier this year by his successor, President Ram Nath Kovind.

A former member of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, Pranab Mukherjee was born December 11, 1935. A veteran Congress leader, Mr Mukherjee was close to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and, over the course of his political career, held a number of key ministerial berths, including Finance, Defence and External Affairs.

Mukherjee played a crucial role in steering the Cabinet pre-Lok Sabha elections when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh underwent a heart bypass surgery in 2008–09 by taking additional charges as chairman of the Cabinet Committee of Political Affairs and Union Minister in the Finance Ministry despite already being Union Minister of External Affairs.

His political career concluded with the retirement as the President of India. Among many things, he will be remembered for the steps he took to make the Rashtrapati Bhavan closer to the people. He opened it up for the public and made a museum.

On the occasion of his 85th Birth Anniversary, his foundation took to Twitter to celebrate the day with reliving the held and practiced throughout his life.

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Free Press Journal