New Delhi: Respected among friends and foes alike, Pranab Mukherjee, the “most perfected politician of the current lot”, will leave active politics on Tuesday marking the end of an illustrious career spanning four decades in the Congress and government.
The redoubtable number two in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet since 2004, Mukherjee has been the chief trouble shooter of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.
The fact that he heads 83 out of the 183 group of ministers adds to his reputation for versatility, which few others can match.
Senior Congress leader Manishankar Aiyar said Mukherjee is unique as he can be firm and yet reach out to his opponents.
“He could be firm not only with leaders of other parties but with Congress leaders as well,” Aiyar told IANS.
Another trait Aiyar finds remarkable in Mukherjee is his “elephantine” memory on issues related to politics and governance.
The Bharatiya Janata Party too has nice words for him.
“Mukherjee is a seasoned politician and a good human being… he is a dedicated Congressman,” BJP’s national vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
Mukherjee’s father Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee, a Congress politician, influenced him.
His political career started as a deputy minister for industrial development in 1973 and he became the finance minister in 1982, a post he holds currently.
His parliamentary career began in 1969 with a Rajya Sabha membership and he was nominated to the Upper House until 2004 when he was elected to the Lok Sabha from West Bengal’s Jangipur constituency.
The 76-year-old Mukherjee is a man of unparalleled experience and has served as commerce, foreign, defence and finance ministers.
While the accolades have been many, there are some brickbats too.
According to senior journalist Kuldeep Nayar, Mukherjee served the Congress well for over four decades but “the only blot on him was when he, as Union commerce minister, went along with former prime minister Indira Gandhi, who declared emergency in 1975, and her son Sanjay Gandhi, who had become an extra-constitutional authority.”
Opinion on how Mukherjee as finance minister managed a slowing down economy of late too is varied.
Nayar said Mukherjee failed as he became bereft of ideas in the past two years while presenting the general budgets.
“He is leaving the economy in a mess,” Nayar told IANS, adding “he perhaps was thinking more about his presidency.”
However, political commentator N Bhaskara Rao described Mukherjee as the most perfected politician among the existing lot across parties as he understands national issues, can analyse them and always found a solution to a political crisis.”
“He was the most relied upon leader by the Congress while making its strategy whether the party was in power or not,” Rao said.
Though Rao said his absence from the government would be worrying for the Congress as the country is facing an economic crisis, Aiyar said “the Congress is bigger than any individual and would find a replacement of Mukherjee.”