Pranab Da: A farewell to consummate politician!

Former President Pranab Mukherjee died on Monday in the army hospital at the age of 84 on Monday. In his political life spanning over five decades, Pranab da, as he was fondly called, saw a meteoric rise from a lecturer of political science in a college in West Bengal to the apex of the Indian State. Through this journey, he emerged as among the most important leaders of the Congress, working with a range of leaders from Indira to Sonia Gandhi. He became the 13th president of India (2012-2017) after a stellar career in the upper echelons of multiple governments.
He was the key troubleshooter for his party and all Congress-led governments. Pranab Da rose to occupy the highest seat of power in Indian democracy but his extraordinary political life is also a story of many misses. Not just the chair of the PM eluded him in 1984, 1990 and 2004; he could not become the Home Minister in 2004 and 2008, the Congress president in 1996 and the Finance Minister in 1991.
In 1982, he became India's youngest finance minister when he was just 47. In the years that followed, he served as India's minister for external affairs, defence, finance and commerce and was the first Indian president to have done so. He was also India's only non-prime minister who was the leader of the Lok Sabha for eight years. Pranab Da was famous in political circles as a consensus builder. He inspired trust among leaders across the political spectrum, an asset that proved handy at the time of his election as president. After leaving office, he also visited the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur — while this drew flak from his former colleagues, it was a sign of his conviction that democracy meant to dialogue with all forces.
In 2019, he was conferred India's highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna by the BJP government, a development that became a subject of intense political debate. Ending his political career as president of India, he left his mark on the highest office of the land too.
Pranab Mukherjee faced and triumphed over several challenges during his eventful five decades in public life. His passing has left a void in our public life; he was a consummate politician with multifaceted contributions to his credit.  He is entitled to a certain space in the history of post-Independence India. Some politicians don’t fade into the background. And so it was with the scholarly Pranab Mukherjee too.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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