Pranab Mukherjee: Son of a freedom fighter who remained a fighter until his last breath

Pranab Mukherjee was born into a politically active family in 1935, when the struggle for freedom was in full swing. (Photo: Bandeep Singh group photo editor)

Former President Pranab Mukherjee is no more. For many, Pranab Mukherjee will remain the prime minister India never had, even though he spent five years in the Rashtrapati Bhavan as India’s first citizen.

Pranab Mukherjee was born into a politically active family in 1935, when the struggle for freedom was in full swing. His father KK Mukherjee was a freedom fighter, who spent several years in prison for participating in the freedom struggle. After independence, Mukherjee senior was elected to the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal, of which he was a member between 1952 and 1965.

Pranab Mukherjee completed his studies and obtained a law degree in Kolkata, where he began teaching at a college in 1963. He was also associated with two Bengali magazines before becoming fully active in politics.


Pranab Mukherjee’s political rise was swift after successfully handling Lok Sabha’s by-election in Midnapore for VK Krishna Menon – known for preparing the first draft preamble to the Constitution and serving as Defense Minister at the Indian era of 1962. China War.

It was during the preparation of the Lok Sabha poll that Pranab Mukherjee impressed then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Pranab Mukherjee had his own Bangla Congress at this time. Menon had run as a candidate for the Bangladeshi Congress in the poll.

Pranab Mukherjee quickly merged her outfit with Congress. In the same year (1969), Indira Gandhi brought Pranab Mukherjee into the Rajya Sabha – her first stint as a Member of Parliament.

He was elected to the Rajya Sabha four more times in 1975, 1981, 1993 and 1999. He won the Lok Sabha elections twice in 2003 and 2009.

Indira Gandhi rewarded Pranab Mukherjee during his first term as a deputy by appointing him Minister of State in various ministries, including that of finance in 1973-74. He was a member of Indira Gandhi’s cabinet during the emergency period and the Shah Commission subsequently indicted him.

But it turned out that the Shah Commission had exceeded its jurisdiction. Pranab Mukherjee came out unscathed in 1979. Pranab Mukherjee became Union Minister of Finance in 1982. The Ministry of Finance will become his preferred office in the years to come.


After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee developed differences with his son and PMO successor, Rajiv Gandhi. Given her closeness to Indira Gandhi and the confidence she had in him, some observers have said that Pranab Mukherjee believed her pretension for prime minister was greater than that of Rajiv Gandhi in 1984.

Pranab Mukherjee was more experienced than Rajiv Gandhi in politics. He had become the Deputy Head of Congress in Rajya Sabha in 1979. A year later he was the House Leader in Rajya Sabha. At the time of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Pranab Mukherjee was the senior finance minister in the Union Cabinet and Rajiv Gandhi a first-time MP.

When Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister, Pranab Mukherjee emerged as a threat to his position and was quickly relegated to the political backstage. Rajiv Gandhi sent him to run party affairs in Bengal.

Pranab Mukherjee, however, broke away from Congress to protest to form his own group, the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress in 1986. But as Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress faced rebellion from his finance minister VP Singh, Pranab Mukherjee was returned to the fold before 1989 Lok Sabha election, which Congress lost.

Pranab Mukherjee was again in the accounts in the PV Narasimha Rao government, when Congress returned to power after the 1991 elections in Lok Sabha that followed the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. During Rao’s tenure, Pranab Mukherjee was first vice-president of the Planning Commission (the former avatar of Niti Aayog) then Minister of Foreign Affairs.

He would return to being Union Minister in the Congressional-led government when Manmohan Singh was prime minister. It was a curious turn of events.

In 1982, it was Pranab Mukherjee who signed the papers for the nomination of Manmohan Singh as governor of the RBI. And, from 2004 to 2012, Pranab Mukherjee was Minister of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Finance several times in the government led by Manmohan Singh.

In July 2012, Pranab Mukherjee was elected President of India. As president-elect, when asked if he had any ambition to become prime minister, Pranab Mukherjee told an interviewer that “7RCR has never been [my] destination”.

Thelma J. Longworth

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.