New Delhi: “I … feel a tinge of sentiment at the thought of leaving behind my life as a political activist, spanning over four decades. I will miss my colleagues in the Ministry of Finance. I will also miss not being stopped while getting into my car and getting out of my car in front of the Ministry of Finance by you all (media).”

Giving up active politics, 77-year-old Pranab Mukherjee resigned from the post of the Finance Minister to contest for the Presidential election. Pranab's election as the 13th President of India is mere a formality, so his departure from the cabinet brings an end to a 34-year long career in politics.

Pranab's successful innings

Son of Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee, a freedom fighter and a member of Indian National Congress, Pranab Mukherjee was born on December 11, 1935, in West Bengal's Birbhum district. He was the UPA's 'little big man', the crisis manager, the consensus builder, Mr Dependable, and Mr fix-it. He first became an Rajya Sabha MP 43 years ago. He became a minister 39 years ago. His first stint as Finance Minister of India began 30 years ago. His political career spans four decade. He has been a minister under every Congress Prime Minister in the last four decades.

Pranab Mukherjee learnt the art of politics from the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. It was Indira who noticed Pranab's talent -- making him minister first time in 1973. He was re-elected to the Upper House in 1975, 1981, 1993 and 1999.

During the dark emergency in India, he stood by Indira Gandhi. He was also accused of favouring Reliance group and building up strong relationship with Dhirubhai Ambani. After Indira's assassination in 1984, the darkest phase in Pranab's career began. Accused of conspiring to be Prime Minister he leaved the Congress party in 1985 and formed his own political party Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress. In the regime of PV Narasimha Rao in 1991, he returned as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and subsequently a Union Cabinet Minister. From 1995 to 1996, he served as External Affairs Minister. A year later, in 1997 he was voted as an Outstanding Parliamentarian.

He has been the chief troubleshooter of the Congress party as well as the government. With Congress-led United Progressive Alliance returning to power in 2004, he ideally played the role of consensus builder to lead a coalition government. It was in 2004, Pranab was appointed as the Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha after he was elected to the lower house for the first time from Jangipur constituency. He was expected to handle the political fallout of all difficult situations -- the Indo-US nuclear deal was the classic example where Pranab as the External Affair Minister used his personal relation to garner support from various political parties.

First Citizen

From holding some of the most powerful posts in the government, Pranab Mukherjee is India's President-in-waiting. "Soon, I will not be a political entity," Pranab Mukherjee had said in his farewell speech last week.

As Finance Minister

Pranab Mukherjee's first stint as the Finance Minister of India was in 1982. He presented the first annual budget in 1982-83. He became the Finance Minister again in Manmohan Singh's cabinet. He presented the Union Budget in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Best Finance Minister

In 1984, Pranab Mukherjee was rated as the best Finance Minister of the World according to a survey of Euro money magazine. In 2010, he was awarded Finance Minister of the Year for Asia by Emerging Markets, the daily newspaper of record for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Last year, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by University of Wolverhampton. He has been a member of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund, of the World Bank, of the Asian Development Bank, and of the African Development Bank.

Mirati's Poltu

Poltu, a village boy from a small village in West Bengal always says that he is straight from village and indeed his story is great. He was educated in a village school. In 1946, Pranab Mukherjee was admitted to class 5th in Kirnahar Shib Chandra High School, Mirati as Poltu. As a young boy, Pranab used to swim across a river to go to school. He always came second in class, he never came first.

He began his career as a clerk in the office of the Deputy Accountant-General in Kolkata. After getting a Masters degree in Political Science and History and degree of Law from Calcutta University, he became professor in a college in Birbhum distict. He also worked as a journalist for the Bengali publication Desher Dak.

Every year, without any delay Pranab visits his home to keep alive the family traditions. He has done this for more than 30 years.

Family

Apart from the average 18 hours of work, he likes to read, garden and listens to Rabindra Sangeet. His favourite food is fish curry. He is married to Suvra and has two sons - Abhijit and Indrajit and a daughter - Sharmistha.

He was the sharpest mind in Manmohan Singh's cabinet with deep understanding of politics, economic policies and strategic issues. He is also the consummate politician, seasoned politician - he played game on the ground and he has the potential to live up to his initials.

(Abhinav Ranjan/JPN)

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