New Delhi: Capping a 45-year-long run in government and politics, Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday embarked on a new and momentous journey as the country's 13th President putting behind political affiliations and who could play a crucial role in the next Lok Sabha elections due in 2014. 

Pranab-da in pics

The 77-year- old veteran leader from West Bengal is variously described as a walking encyclopedia, chronicler of Congress history, expert in matters of Constitution and governance and a stickler for rules in the Parliament.
Pranab-da in his early days

Pranab-da, as he is universally known, was born to Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee and Rajlakshmi Mukherjee, in Mirati village near Kirnahar in Birbhum, West Bengal on December 11, 1935.

His father was in the Indian National Congress who later became a member of the West Bengal Legislative Council.

Pranab Mukherjee married Suvra Mukherjee on July 13, 1957 and has two sons, Abhijit and Indrajit and a daughter.

After finishing his education at Suri Vidyasagar College and a degree in law from the University of Calcutta, Pranab started his career as a college teacher.  He had a brief stint as lawyer and journalist before he was embedded to his destiny of politics.

Political journey begins

Walking in his father’s footsteps, Pranab made his debut in politics in 1969, when he became a member of Rajya Sabha.

Pranab was for a long time member of the Upper House (re-elected in 1975, 1981, 1993 and 1999) before his first direct election to Lok Sabha in 2004 from Jangipur in West Bengal. He repeated his victory in 2009 elections but had expressed a desire not to contest elections again in view of his advancing age. 

Pranab's Political Career

Pranab was the man who played a remarkable role in the huge transformation of India’s socialist economy to the post-globalistaion market economy in the 90s. Since, his foray in politics, Pranab has emerged as the man of all seasons for his party and therefore, held key positions in the government in his four decades political career.  

He has the distinction of being a Minister for various high profile Ministries including Defence, Finance, External Affairs, Revenue, Shipping, Transport, Communication, Economic Affairs, Commerce and Industry.

He also heads the Congress Parliamentary Party and the Congress Legislative Party which consists of all the Congress MPs and MLAs in the country apart from being Leader of the House in Lok Sabha, Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee President and the Union Cabinet Minister of Finance in the Council of Ministers under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Congress-led Government.

He was a powerful Minister of State for Revenue during Emergency and in nine years from 1973, he rose to become the Finance Minister in Indira Gandhi's Cabinet.
Again his importance was seen when the late P V Narasimha Rao made him Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission as well as Minister of External Affairs. In between he had to quit because he ceased to be a member of Parliament and came back to the Cabinet after re-election.
Pranab started his public life in the 60s in Bangla Congress during the time of late Chief Minister Ajoy Mukherjee of the United Front government when Jyoti Basu was Deputy Chief Minister in West Bengal. He was general secretary of Bangla Congress.
His profile on the Lok Sabha's website says     Pranab "was considered top ranking Minister and presided over the Cabinet meetings of the Union in the absence of the Prime Minister during 1980-1985".
Recording a quick growth in his political career soon after, Pranab, who became a Minister of State for Industrial Development in 1973 rose to become the country's Finance Minister (1982-1984)during Indira Gandhi's period, a post which he held again in the UPA 2 under Manmohan Singh's government.

Ironically it was this phenomenal career growth of Pranab, which also became a cause of his much-talked about stagnation in politics, so much so that he became Finance Minister again in UPA 2 after around 30 years.

He was Leader of Rajya Sabha from 1980-85. Currently he is the Leader of Lok Sabha, while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the Leader of the Upper House.
Pranab Mukherjee -Manmohan Singh: The Chasers

When Pranab was Finance Minister of the country, Manmohan Singh was appointed RBI Governor in 1982. In what could be described a case of chasing each other's shadow, Singh became Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission from 1985 to 1987, a post Mukherjee later held from 1991 to 1996, when Singh became Finance Minister under P V Narsimha Rao government.
Mukherjee also had a brief stint as Chairman of the Economic Advisory Cell of AICC between 1987 and 1989. Interestingly, Manmohan Singh also held this post, when Congress was out of power between 1999 and 2004.

In the Congress Party, Mukherjee became AICC treasurer in 1978. Journos and AICC media department officials still recall Mukherjee's tenure as the Media Department Chairman of the party. Mukherjee was AICC general secretary in 1998-99.
In 1984-1991, 1996 and 1998, Mukherjee was Chairman of the Campaign Committee of AICC for Conducting National Election to Parliament besides being a member in the Congress Working Committee and Congress Election Committee.

Pranab: Congress’s man of all times

Ever seen as the perennial 'No 2' in the Congress, on whose ticket he became a Rajya Sabha member for the first time, Mukherjee may have missed becoming the Prime Minister on a couple of occasions but still he was the man to whom the government looked to during times of crisis.
Even his nomination as a candidate for President's election sparing him from the government has come after a huge dilemma for the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who trusted him as a deft manager of the government that has often moved from crisis to crisis in both the versions.
Honouring ‘the Solution Man’

Mukherjee was also jocularly called 'GoM Mukherjee' in political circles as he headed close to 33 Group of Ministers on various key issues including the recent one on setting up of Lokpal.
Mukherjee has five books published to his credit on political and economic issues and under his editorial guidance, the history of Congress was published in which there was a candid admission of excesses during the Emergency.
In 1984, he was rated as the best Finance Minister of the World according to a survey of Euromoney magazine.

In 2010, he received the "Finance Minister of the Year for Asia" award by Emerging Markets, the daily newspaper of record for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In December 2010, ‘The Banker’ recognised him as "Finance Minister of the Year" for his significant contribution in budget deficit reduction, throughout a turbulent year.

He got the best Parliamentarian Award in 1997. Ten years later Padma Vibhushan followed for him in 2007.
Controversies, Allegations and Accusations

Even if Pranab considered as the crisis manager of Congress, but there was a phase when the troubleshooter himself was surrounded by troubles.

He was a Minister in Indira Gandhi's Cabinet during the Emergency and was held by many to be personally responsible for some of the infamous period.

He was summoned before the Shah Commission for his alleged roles in the some of the excesses. A police case was registered against him which was withdrawn when Gandhi returned to power.

The woes for Pranab was not over yet as he was exposed by S Gurumurthy and Arun Shourie for helping Reliance Industries against Bombay Dyeing through differential taxation by influencing the Income Tax Department in textile industry. As a result of which Bombay Dyeing was almost decimated.

He was also involved in handling Taslima Nasreen's house arrest in Delhi, as the Foreign Minister. He received huge criticism for actions leading to Nasreen's eventual departure from India in March 2008.

He has also been accused of threatening banks if they invest in Gujarat by sending the Income Tax Department sleuths after them.

Besides, Pranab had his own bad days in Congress which he had to quit in the mid 80s after he had evinced interest in becoming the Prime Minister on the death of Indira Gandhi in 1984. It took some time before he came back into the party but once he was in there was no stopping his rise once again.

Pranab: The Rare Politician

Pranab, set to be India's next President, is a rare politician who has never been a mass leader but who commands the attention of the nation like few others in his tribe.

All through his political career, he has been successful in maintaining an unblemished image and upholding probity in public life. He devours books, works well past midnight, and said in a rare peek into his personal life in an interview some years ago that he hardly was able to find time for his family and his only interaction was often limited to giving his wife a goodnight peck before retiring to bed well past the usual bedtime.

He is known never to have taken a holiday, except for his annual spiritual jaunt when he has a rendezvous with his favourite deity, Goddess Durga, at his ancestral home in Miriti village in Birbhum district, about 200 km from Kolkata. Adorning the pattabastra (robe) of a priest, Pranab religiously performs the rituals, reads from the 'Sree Sree Chandi' sacred text, and fasts during the three days of Durga Puja.

His Congress colleagues whisper he is a Chanakya, ancient India's fabled political philosopher, but he largely well liked for his knowledge and sagacity.

"No one in the party is against him, he has no enemies," a Congress minister, who did not wish to be identified, said.  

He is down to earth, lives modestly, and has admitted many a time that he cannot speak polished English. For one who is supremely self-confident, he can be humble. But he has a temper, and has more than once apologized to MPs for raising his voice.

Once a pipe smoker, Pranab has now quit smoking. Today he tells people to kick the habit - by regularly hiking excise duty on tobacco.

He's not a movie buff, but his soft corner for the silver screen was amply evident when he, in his latest general budget, exempted films from service tax, saying they contributed immensely to national unity.

"I used to see some movies earlier. But recently I didn't have the luxury of having any time...except for one movie, watching which I think was, a part of my job. It was on air force...'Rang De Basanti'," he had famously said about the 2006 Aamir Khan-starrer.

Being a Bengali does not necessarily make Pranab a soccer fanatic.

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