Pranab Mukherjee was born in 11 December 1935 – 31 August 2020) was an Indian politician who served as the 13th President of India from 2012 until 2017. In a political career spanning five decades, Mukherjee was a senior leader in the Indian National Congress and occupied several ministerial portfolios in the Government of India. Prior to his election as President, Mukherjee was Union Finance Minister from 2009 to 2012. He was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna in 2019 by the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind.Mukherjee got his break in politics in 1969 when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi helped him get elected to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament of India, on a Congress ticket. Following a meteoric rise, he became one of Gandhi’s most trusted lieutenants and a minister in her cabinet in 1973. Mukherjee’s service in a number of ministerial capacities culminated in his first stint as Finance Minister of India in 1982–84. He was also the Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha from 1980 to 1985.Mukherjee was sidelined from the Congress during the premiership of Rajiv Gandhi. Mukherjee had viewed himself and not the inexperienced Rajiv, as the rightful successor to Indira following her assassination in 1984. Mukherjee lost out in the ensuing power struggle. He formed his own party, the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress, which merged with the Congress in 1989 after reaching a consensus with Rajiv Gandhi. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991, Mukherjee’s political career revived when Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao appointed him Planning Commission head in 1991 and foreign minister in 1995. Following this, as elder statesman of the Congress, Mukherjee was the principal and architect of Sonia Gandhi’s ascension to the party’s presidency in 1998.When the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came into power in 2004, Mukherjee won a Lok Sabha seat (the popularly elected lower house of Parliament) seat for the first time. From then until his resignation in 2012, Mukherjee held a number of key cabinet portfolios in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government – Defence (2004–06), External Affairs (2006–09) and Finance (2009–12) – apart from heading several Groups of Ministers (GoMs) and being Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha. After securing the UPA’s nomination for the country’s presidency in July 2012, Mukherjee comfortably defeated P. A. Sangma in the race to Rashtrapati Bhavan, winning 70 percent of the electoral-college vote.In 2017, Mukherjee decided not to run for re-election and to retire from politics after leaving the presidency due to “health complications relating to old age.” His term expired on 25 July 2017. He was succeeded as President by Ram Nath Kovind. In June 2018 Mukherjee became first former President of India to address a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) event.
Early life and education :- Pranab was born into a Bengali family at Mirati, a village in the Bengal Presidency of British India (now in Birbhum district, West Bengal). His father, Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee was active in the Indian independence movement and was a member of West Bengal Legislative Council between 1952 and 1964 as a representative of the Indian National Congress; he was a member of AICC. His mother was Rajlakshmi Mukherjee. He had two siblings: older sister Annapurna and younger brother Piyush.He attended the Suri Vidyasagar College in Suri (Birbhum), then affiliated to University of Calcutta. He subsequently earned an MA degree in Political Science & History and an LL.B. degree, both from University of Calcutta.He was an upper-division Clerk in the Office of Deputy Accountant-General (Post and Telegraph) in Calcutta. In 1963, he became a lecturer (Assistant Professor) of Political Science at Vidyanagar College, Kolkata and he also worked as a Journalist with the Desher Dak (Call of Motherland) before entering politics.
Political Career :- Mukherjee started his political career as a founding member of the Bangla Congress. In 1969, when he managed the successful Midnapore by-election campaign of an independent candidate, V. K. Krishna Menon. He became a member of Rajya Sabha (the upper house of Indian parliament) in July 1969 on a Bangla Congress ticket. Then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, recognised Mukherjee’s talents and recruited him to her party, the Indian National Congress. Mukherjee was re-elected to the house in 1975, 1981, 1993, and 1999.
Mukherjee became a Gandhi loyalist and was often described as her “man for all seasons.” Mukherjee’s rise was rapid in the early phase of his career and he was appointed Union Deputy Minister of Industrial Development in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet in 1973. Mukherjee was active in the Indian cabinet during the controversial Internal Emergency of 1975–77. Ruling Congress politicians of the day including Mukherjee were accused of using extra-constitutional powers to “wreck established norms and rules of governance.” Following the Congress’s defeat in the 1977 general elections, the newly formed Janata government-appointed Shah Commission indicted Mukherjee; however, the commission was itself indicted in 1979 for stepping “outside its jurisdiction. Mukherjee emerged unscathed and rose through a series of cabinet posts to become Finance Minister from 1982 to 1984.His term was noted for his work in improving the finances of the government which enabled Gandhi to score a political point by returning the last instalment of India’s first IMF loan. As Finance Minister, Mukherjee signed the letter appointing Manmohan Singh as Governor of the Reserve Bank of India.In 1979, Mukherjee became Deputy Leader of the INC in the Rajya Sabha, and in 1980 he was appointed Leader of the House. Mukherjee was considered the top-ranking Indian cabinet minister and he presided over cabinet meetings in the absence of the Prime Minister.Mukherjee was sidelined from the INC following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Although Mukherjee was much more experienced in politics than Indira’s son, Rajiv Gandhi, it was Rajiv who gained control. Mukherjee lost his position in the cabinet and was sent to manage the regional West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee. He was considered to be Indira’s likely successor and, siding with those within his party who aligned themselves against Rajiv Gandhi, Mukherjee was sidelined and eventually expelled from the mainstream.
In 1986, Mukherjee founded another party, the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress (RSC), in West Bengal. The RSC and INC merged three years later after a compromise was reached with Rajiv Gandhi. The RSC had fared terribly in the 1987 Assembly polls in West Bengal. Many analysts, over the years, have attributed the muting of Mukherjee’s political aspirations as the supreme leader to his inability to emerge as a magnetic mass leader. On later being asked that did he ever desire to become Prime Minister, Mukherjee, however, replied, “7 RCR was never my destination.” The Zee News noted: “The statement assumes heft in the light of the longstanding speculation that Mukherjee, as one of the doyens of Congress, always nursed an ambition to occupy the top executive post.”Mukherjee’s political career revived following Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 when P. V. Narasimha Rao chose to appoint him as deputy chairman of the Indian Planning Commission and subsequently as a union cabinet minister. Mukherjee served as External Affairs Minister for the first time from 1995 to 1996 in Rao’s cabinet.Mukherjee was considered to be a Gandhi family loyalist and the principal architect of Sonia Gandhi’s entry into politics, a mentoring responsibility he was believed to have continued shouldering. He was made General Secretary of the AICC in 1998–99 after Sonia Gandhi became Congress President. Mukherjee was made President of the West Bengal Congress in 2000 and held the position until his resignation in 2010. He had earlier held the position in 1985.Mukherjee became Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha in 2004. He contested and won a Lok Sabha seat from Jangipur in West Bengal which he would later retain in 2009. It was speculated in 2004 that Mukherjee would be made Prime Minister of India after Sonia Gandhi declined to become Prime Minister; however, Manmohan Singh was chosen.Mukherjee was briefly considered for the post of the largely ceremonial Indian presidency in 2007 but his name was subsequently dropped after his contribution in the Union Cabinet was considered practically indispensable.Mukherjee held many important posts in the Manmohan Singh government. He had the distinction of being the Minister for various high-profile Ministries including Defence, Finance, and External Affairs. Mukherjee also headed 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 and Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee President.Mukherjee ended his affiliation with the Indian National Congress and retired from active political life following his election as president in 2012. The Economic Times had noted: “[the] decades of activity in critical all-rounder roles make [Mukherjee’s] exit both a structural and generation shift. With him, the last of the Congress triumvirate – along with Rao and R. Venkataraman – who formed the core team of Indira/Rajiv regimes bows out. While Rao became PM, Pranab’s political marathon too ends where Venkataraman’s did, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.”
Political Party Role :- Mukherjee was “very well respected within the party social circles.” Media accounts describe him as having “a reputation as a number-crunching politician with a phenomenal memory and an unerring survival instinct.”
Mukherjee became a member of the Congress Working Committee on 27 January 1978. He also became a member of the Central Parliamentary Board of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) that year. Mukherjee briefly held the position of treasurer of the AICC and the Congress party in 1978.
Mukherjee was appointed chairman of the Campaign Committee of AICC for conducting National Elections to Parliament in 1984, 1991, 1996, and 1998. He was chairman of the Central Election Coordination Committee of the AICC from 28 June 1999 to 2012. He was appointed to the Central Election Committee on 12 December 2001. Mukherjee was appointed General Secretary of the AICC in 1998. In 1997 Mukherjee was voted Outstanding Parliamentarian by the Indian Parliamentary Group.After Sonia Gandhi reluctantly agreed to join politics, Mukherjee was one of her mentors, guiding her through difficult situations with examples of how her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi would have done things. His talents were on display during the negotiations for the Patents Amendment Bill in early 2005. The Congress was committed to passing an IP bill, but their allies in the United Progressive Alliance from the Left front had a long tradition of opposing some of the monopoly aspects of intellectual property. Mukherjee, as Defence Minister, was not formally involved but was roped in for his negotiation skills. He drew on many old allies including; the CPI-M leader Jyoti Basu (former Chief Minister of West Bengal), and formed new intermediary positions, which included product patent and little else. Then he had to convince his own colleagues including commerce minister Kamal Nath, who at one point said…”An imperfect legislation is better than no legislation.” Finally on 23 March 2005 the bill was approved.India Today wrote that Mukherjee’s role in “skillfully pushing through the historic 123 Agreement and treaty with the Nuclear Suppliers Group” may have saved the UPA-II government from the 2008 motion of no confidence.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 Finance Ministry despite already being Union Minister of External Affairs.Mukherjee’s political skills and long experience in government have also led him to head a large number of committees of Ministers in the government. At the time of his resignation on being nominated as the UPA’s presidential candidate, Mukherjee was heading several Groups of Ministers (GoMs) and Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGoMs).
Union Cabinet Minister :- Ministry of Defence. Manmohan Singh appointed Mukherjee as the Minister of Defence of India when the Congress Party once again came to power in 2004. Mukherjee held the post until 2006. He expanded co-operation with the United States during his tenure. The Times of India reported on the Wikileaks cables release and noted how the U.S. is full of praise for the “uniformed leadership” of Indian armed forces. Mukherjee in June 2005 had inked the ten-year Indo-US Defence Framework deal.Despite increasing co-operation with the United States, Mukherjee maintained that Russia will remain India’s ‘topmost’ defence partner. He asserted that “Russia has been and will remain India’s largest defence partner in the years to come” while inaugurating the 5th session of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) in Moscow in 2005.Russia and India held their first joint anti-terror war games in Rajasthan in October 2005, during which Mukherjee and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov narrowly escaped injury after a heavy mortar landed several metres from their platform. The Russian ministry subsequently declared its hopes to follow up joint military exercises in India with further joint exercises on Russian territory.
Minister of External Affairs :- Mukherjee was appointed the External Affairs Minister of India in 1995. Under his leadership, India was made “Full Dialogue Partner” of ASEAN as part of the Look East foreign policy initiated by Narasimha Rao. Mukherjee left the position in 1996.Mukherjee’s second term began in 2006. He oversaw the successful signing of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement with the U.S. government and then with the Nuclear Suppliers Group, allowing India to participate in civilian nuclear trade in spite of not having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Mukherjee played a crucial role in mobilising world opinion against Pakistan after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He left the position a year later to take over the Finance Ministry of India.When asked what legacy he wanted to leave behind as Foreign Minister of India, Mukherjee replied, “As the [man] who prepared Indian diplomacy to address the challenges of a more globalised, interdependent and uncertain world.”
Minister of Commerce and Industry
Mukherjee thrice served as Commerce Minister of India. His first stints were in the Indira Gandhi government from 1980 to 1982 and again in 1984. His third stint in the 1990s saw him contribute significantly to the negotiations which led to the establishment of the World Trade Organization.The final years of Mukherjee in the finance ministry were not considered a success. The NDTV upon his resignation as Finance Minister in June 2012 wrote: “There [had] been a clamour from many quarters for a change in the Finance Ministry, with Mr Mukherjee having faced flak for several decisions where politics seemed to overwhelm economic imperatives.
Other Positions :- Mukherjee was chairman of the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata. He was also for various tenures; the chairman and president of the Rabindra Bharati University and the Nikhil Bharat Banga Sahitya Sammelan, as well as a trustee of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad and the Bidhan Memorial Trust. He also served on the Planning Board of the Asiatic Society
President Of India :- Mukherjee was nominated as the presidential candidate of the United Progressive Alliance on 15 June 2012 after considerable political intrigue. The elections were scheduled to be conducted on 19 July 2012 and the results were expected to be announced on 22 July 2012. The nominee of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was P. A. Sangma. To file his nomination for the presidential poll on 28 June, Mukherjee resigned from the government on 26 June 2012.
In the election, Mukherjee received 713,763 votes, while Sangma had 315,987. In his victory speech, delivered outside his residence before the results were officially announced, he said:I would like to express my deep gratitude to all of you who are waiting. The figure has crossed 7 lakhs, only one state remains. The final figure will come from the returning officer. I would like to thank the people of India for electing me to this high office. The enthusiasm, the warmth of the people was remarkable. I have received much more from the people of this country, from the Parliament, than I have given. Now I have been entrusted with the responsibility of protecting and defending the constitution as President. I will try and justify the trust of the people. I would like to reciprocate the congratulation Shri Purno Sangma has extended.Mukherjee was sworn-in by the Chief Justice of India on 25 July 2012, becoming the first Bengali to hold the post of President of India. After being administered the oath of office, he said we are in the midst of a fourth world war of terror (the third was the Cold war) and what minutes of peace can achieve cannot be achieved in many years of war.Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh both congratulated Pranab Mukherjee on his election as president. Former Communist leader Somnath Chatterjee termed Mukherjee as one of “the best parliamentarians and statesmen of India” and said the country “has got the most able man for the top job.” Opposition leader Sharad Yadav declared “the nation needed a president like Pranab Mukherjee.” Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit commented and said Mukherjee will be “one of the wisest presidents.” She further marvelled at the fact that parties in the opposition ranks supported Mukherjee. “Even the NDA broke up and wanted to vote for the president to be Pranab Mukherjee.” The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was reportedly “shocked” and “upset” at the cross-voting for Mukherjee by its legislative members. However, the BJP party President Nitin Gadkari congratulated Mukherjee and said “I extend my hearty congratulations to Pranab Mukherjee on his election today as the new President of India.” Gadkari further declared “I am sure that the country will make further development and progress. I wish him all success and a bright future.The Zee News noted: “What is striking about [Mukherjee] is that after more than four decades in public life, the Opposition had no ammunition against him after he was declared UPA’s choice for President. In spite of Team Anna making some noise about him being involved in some corruption cases, it has been more or less an easy ride for Pranab to Raisina Hill. Once when Sonia Gandhi announced his name, most of the allies and the Opposition came on board. Whereas, NDA partner JD(U) saw no merit in opposing him, one of the bitter critics of the Congress Shiv Sena too toed the line a little too easily. This support was not for Congress but for [Mukherjee].”Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 was promulgated by Pranab Mukherjee on 3 February 2013, which provides for the amendment of Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on laws related to sexual offences. As of July 2015, President Mukherjee had rejected 24 mercy pleas including those of Yakub Memon, Ajmal Kasab, and Afzal Guru.In January 2017, Mukherjee announced that he would not contest the 2017 Presidential elections citing “advanced age and failing health”.
Personal Life :- Pranab Mukherjee married Suvra Mukherjee on 13 July 1957. Suvra Mukherjee was born and raised in Narail, Bangladesh. She immigrated to Kolkata while she was 10 and married Pranab in 1957. The couple had two sons and a daughter. Suvra died on 18 August 2015, aged 74 of heart failure while Mukherjee was still in office. His elder son, Abhijit Mukherjee, was a Congress MP from Jangipur, West Bengal until 2019. He was elected in a by-election after his father vacated the seat. Before his election to the Lok Sabha, Abhijit was an MLA from Nalhati in Birbhum.
He was inspired by Deng Xiaoping and quoted him quite frequently. His hobbies were reading, gardening, and music.
Mukherjee celebrated the Durga Puja at his ancestral home at Mirati village. He used to make it a point to be at Mirati village every year to take part in the four-day rituals, the puja having a “social dimension” for him. “I want to avail this opportunity to be with the people of my area,” Mukherjee said during a puja ceremony on 4 October 2011.
Illness and Death :- During the COVID-19 pandemic, on 10 August 2020, Mukherjee announced on Twitter that he had tested positive for COVID-19 prior to his surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain. He was admitted to the hospital after accidentally slipping and falling in his bathroom. He was on ventilator support and in critical condition at the Army’s Research and Referral (R&R) hospital in Delhi.On 13 August, the hospital reported that Mukherjee was in a deep coma after he underwent brain surgery, however his vital parameters remained stable. On 19 August, the Army’s Research and Referral hospital said that the health condition of Mukherjee had declined as he had developed a lung infection. On 25 August, his renal parameters became “slightly deranged”, with the condition worsening days later.Mukherjee died on 31 August 2020, aged 84, which was confirmed by his son Abhijit Mukherjee via Twitter. His death came after the attending hospital confirmed that his health had deteriorated early that day stating that he had been in septic shock since a day earlier which was caused by his lung infection and that he was overseen by a team of specialists.Condolences poured in immediately from leaders of both India and other nations. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the President Ramnath Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, Home Minister Amit Shah, and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi conveyed their condolences via Twitter. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, the President of Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Lotay Tshering, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the Prime Minister of Nepal, K. P. Sharma Oli, were among the foreign leaders who expressed their condolences. Sports players and actors from the country also expressed their condolences.The Government of India announced a seven-day period of state mourning between 31 August to 6 September, whereby the national flag will fly at half mast on all buildings wherever it is flown regularly. The West Bengal state government declared a closure of state run offices for the following day as a mark of respect.The funeral was held the following day, i.e. 1 September at the Lodhi Road crematorium at 2 pm IST with full state honours. The mortal remains were carried to the crematorium in a van instead of gun carriage due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in the country.
- Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award in 2008.
- Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award in 2019.
- Bangladesh Liberation War Honour (Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sanmanona),(5 March 2013; Bangladesh)
- Grand Cross of National Order of the Ivory Coast (June 2016; Ivory Coast)
- Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III (28 April 2017; Cyprus)
- Hon. Doctor of Letters degree by the University of Wolverhampton, UK in 2011.
- Hon. D.Litt by Assam University in March 2012.
- Hon. Doctorate in Science by Visvesvaraya Technological University; Belgaum, Karnataka in 2012
- Hon. LL.D. by President of Bangladesh and Chancellor Md. Zillur Rahman at University of Dhaka on 4 March 2013.
- DCL (Doctor of Civil Law) (honoris causa) by University of Mauritius on 13 March 2013.
- Hon. Doctorate by Istanbul University on 5 October 2013.
- Honorary Doctorate from the University of Calcutta in on 28 November 2014.
- Hon. Doctorate in Political Science by University of Jordan on 11 October 2015.
- Hon. Doctorate by Al-Quds University of Ramallah, Palestine on 13 October 2015.
- Hon. Doctorate by Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel on 15 October 2015.
- Hon. Doctorate by Kathmandu University, Nepal on 3 November 2016.
- Hon. Doctorate by Goa University on 25 April 2017.
- D.Litt.(Honoris Causa) by the Jadavpur University on 24 December 2017.
- Hon. D.Litt by University of Chittagong on 16 J
- anuary 2018.Other recognitionBest Finance Minister in World (1984), according to survey of Euromoney magazine.
Finance Minister of Year for Asia (2010), by Emerging Markets, daily newspaper of record for World Bank and IMF.
Finance Minister of Year (2010), by The Banker
- Honorary Citizenship of Abidjan, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire on 1
- 5 June 2016.
- Pranab Mukherjee’s positions in chronological order:
Union Minister of Industrial Development 1973–1974
Union Minister of Shipping and Transport 1974
Minister of State for Finance 1974–1975
Union Minister of Revenue and Banking 1975–1977
Treasurer of Congress Party 1978–79
Treasurer of All India Congress Committee 1978–79
Leader of House of Rajya Sabha 1980–85
Union Minister of Commerce and Steel and Mines 1980–1982
Union Minister of Finance 1982–1984
Board of Governors of International Monetary Fund 1982–1985
Board of Governors of World Bank 1982–1985
Board of Governors of Asian Development Bank 1982–1984
Board of Governors of African Development Bank 1982–1985
Union Minister of Commerce and Supply 1984
Chairman; Campaign Committee of Congress-I for conducting National Elections to Parliament, 1984 Indian general election, 1991 Indian general election, 1996 Indian general election and 1998 Indian general election
Chairman of Group of 24(a Ministerial Group attached to IMF and World Bank)1984 and 2009–2012
President of State Unit of Congress Party 1985 and 2000–08
Chairman of Economic Advisory Cell of AICC 1987–1989
Dy Chairman of Planning Commission 1991–1996
Union Minister of Commerce 1993–1995
Union Minister of External Affairs 1995–1996
President, SAARC Council of Ministers Conference 1995
General Secretary of AICC 1998–1999
Chairman of Central Election Coordination Committee 1999–2012
Leader of House of Lok Sabha 2004–2012
Union Minister of Defence 2004–2006
Union Minister of External Affairs 2006–2009
Union Minister of Finance 2009–2012
- President of India 25 July 2012 – 2
- 5 July 2017.Books writtenBeyond Survival: Emerging Dimensions of Indian Economy. S. Chand & Company. 1986. ISBN 0706926587.
Off the Track: A Few Comments on Current Affairs. K. P. International. 1987.
Challenges Before the Nation: Saga of Struggle and Sacrifice (Indian National Congress). Vikas Publishing House. 1993. ISBN 0706966236.
A Centenary History of the Indian National Congress – Volume V: 1964–1984 (co-authored with Aditya Mukherjee). Academic Foundation Kolkata. 2011. ISBN 978-8171888641.
Congress and the Making of the Indian Nation. Academic Foundation Kolkata. 2011. ISBN 8171888585.
Thoughts and Reflections. Rupa Publications India. 2014. ISBN 8129134470.
The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years. Rupa Publications India. 2015. ISBN 8129136015.
The Turbulent Years: 1980–1996. Rupa Publications India. 2016. ISBN 8129137690.
- The Coalition Years: 1996–2012. Rupa Publications India. 2017. ISBN 8129149052