From Raisina Hills to Canchi Leikol
My homage to Pranab Mukherjee
Thirty first August Twenty Twenty will always remain a sad day in/for the Country. Last Monday, the Thirteenth President of the Republic of India (2012-2017) Shri Pranab Mukherjee Passed away at the ripe age of eighty four leaving family, friends, admirers and tens of thousands of supporters in a state of grief and mourning. In his message of condolences, President Ram Nath Kovind described the former President's demise as "passing of an era" and called him "a colossus in public life " and one of the worthiest sons of the Nation. Recalling his initial foray into national politics in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on his Twitter: " I was new to Delhi in 2014. From Day 1, I was blessed to have the guidance, support and blessings of Shri Pranab Mukherjee ". The Prime Minister went on to describe the former President as a "scholar par excellence, a towering statesman ". Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said the Country has lost one of its greatest leaders. Condoling the demise of former President Pranab Mukherjee, the state Chief Minister Shri N Biren Singh said "the Country has lost a precious son of the soil...his contributions to the political and economic sphere of the country will be fondly remembered by the people ".
Born on December 11 1935 in a middle class family in Bengal (now West Bengal) Pranab Kumar Mukherjee started his career as a college teacher with a double masters in History and Political Science as well as a degree in Law from the university of Calcutta. He also served as editor of a Bengali periodical and worked for a weekly publication. He later left his teaching career and plunged himself into public life, following the footsteps of his father who was deeply involved in India's freedom struggle.
In 1969, Pranab Mukherjee became a member of the Upper House when he was elected to the Rajya Sabha as a Bangla Congress candidate which later on merged with the Indian National Congress. It was during the Prime Ministership of Indira Gandhi (1966-77; 1980- 84) that Pranab Mukherjee emerged as her protege and most trusted lieutenant. Widely regarded as Indira's 'Trouble Shooter ' , Pranab Mukherjee fall out with the Congress in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi 's assassination in 1984 when Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his mother as Prime Minister. He later rejoined Congress in 1989 following a patch up with Rajiv Gandhi. He left Rajya Sabha in 2004 when he was elected to the Lower House and remains a member of Lol Sabha until 2012 when he ran for the office of the President of India.
Decorated with the country's highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna (2019) and the second highest Padma Vibhusan (2008), Pranab Mukherjee held many high profile portfolios such as Finance (incidentally the youngest Finance minister at the age of 47), External affairs and Defence with aplomb and elan.
Pranab Mukherjee 's Presidentship years at Rastrapati Bhavan (2012-2017) was marked by non-partisanship and conscientious decisions. A politician-statesman, Pranab Mukherjee always puts national interest above individual interest. He was the first Indian President to visit Israel and also the first to attend RSS function. He rejected 30 mercy petitions, a number greater than the combined total of mercy petitions rejected by his four immediate predecessors, including those of Afzal Guru, Ajmal Kasab and Yakub Men on.
A bibliophile by nature, Pranab Mukherjee loves reading and writing, a rare quality he sustained in spite of his hectic political and official engagements/commitments. Among several books that he authored, 3 books of very interesting themes "The Dramatic Decade"(2014); "The Turbulent Years"(2016) and "The Coalition Years"(2017) merit high attention as they were all published while in office.
My Tribute: When the 13th President of India Pranab Mukherjee bade farewell to Rastrapati Bhavan in 2017 , yours truly wrote the following and posted on my face book page (24 July 2017) as my humble/personal tribute to the outgoing President: " Sir you will be remembered not merely as one of India's former Presidents. Your Presidency will be fondly remembered, cherished and treasured for bringing back dignity and integrity to the highest office of the country. Sir you also have added that touch of academic fragrance, hitherto missing after Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, which certainly will be an enduring legacy of your Presidency. I never have had the occasion , privilege and opportunity of shaking hands with any of the former President. I still cherish the warm hands that was extended to me during your convocation visit to Nagaland Central University.
How could I ever forget your sense of Fairness and justice shown to an unknown humble teacher from a far-flung tiny corner of the country. I have personal reasons to be eternally grateful to you Sir for where I am now.
May God Bless you and give healthy life ".
When I heard the sad news of Pranab Mukherjee 's death on 31 August 2020 , I wrote, expressed my deepest feeling of grief and loss the next day on my fb page:
"The Thirteenth President of the Republic of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee Passed Away. His sense of fairness, academic expertise and skilful crisis management ability will be missed.
For Some One (like me) living in a tiny corner of India who had been blessed by his warm hands and concern for the underprivileged, his passing away is nothing short of a personal loss.
May His Great Soul Rest In Eternal Peace ".
Sir, I owe you. I shall always owe you for your kind hand of blessings from Raisina Hills so an unknown teacher could teach and inspire young minds at Dr. Kamal's Canchi Leikol.
The author is Professor and Head, Department of Sociology MU, Imphal.