Mr Pranab Mukherjee will embark on a new journey transcending political affiliations in the high Constitutional job.

Not a lawyer by training but considered an expert in the working of the Constitution and governance, he was ever seen as the perennial ‘No 2’ in government.

Mr Mukherjee was a utility man from the days of Indira Gandhi, when he was the powerful Minister of State for Revenue during the Emergency, and later as Finance Minister in the 80s.

His rise had been steady and so valuable was his contribution to the Government that his nomination as a Presidential candidate came after a huge dilemma for Congress party, which heads the UPA coalition that has moved from crisis to crisis in the last eight years.

The veteran leader, known for his photographic memory, had become a Rajya Sabha member for the first time in 1969.

Mr Mukherjee was for a long time member of the Upper House before his first direct election to the Lok Sabha in 2004 from Jangipur in West Bengal. He repeated his victory in the 2009 elections but had expressed a desire not to contest elections again in view of his advancing age.

Mr Mukherjee was a top ranking minister and presided over the Union Cabinet meetings in the absence of the Prime Minister during 1980-1985.

Of course, Mukherjee had his bad days in Congress which he had to quit in the mid-80s after he had evinced interest in becoming the Prime Minister after the death of Indira Gandhi in 1984.

It took some time before he came back into the party but once he was in, there was no stopping his rise once again.

Mr Mukherjee became Finance Minister again in 2008 after Mr P. Chidambaram was shifted to Home Ministry in the wake of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

Again his importance was seen when Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao made him Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission as well as the Minister of External Affairs. In between he had to quit because he ceased to be a Member of Parliament and came back to the Cabinet after re-election.

Mr Mukherjee started his public life in the 60s in Bangla Congress during the time of late Chief Minister Ajoy Mukherjee of the United Front government when Jyoti Basu was Deputy Chief Minister in West Bengal. He was general secretary of Bangla Congress.

A post-graduate in political science and history, he can recollect any event of historical importance or mundane political and other events, a matter of envy to many of his colleagues.

Son of a senior Congress leader Kinkar Mukherjee from West Bengal, Mr Pranab had a brief stint as lawyer, teacher and journalist before he joined politics.

(This article was published on July 22, 2012)
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