Pranab Mukherjee: A career spanning six decades

New Delhi: Born on December 11, 1935, Pranab Mukherjee served as the 13th President of India from 2012 until 2017. In a political career spanning six decades, Mukherjee was a senior leader of Indian National Congress and occupied several ministerial portfolios in the Government of India.

Before his election as President, Mukherjee was Union Finance Minister from 2009 to 2012, and Congress party’s top troubleshooter.

He got his break in politics in 1969 when Prime Minister (PM) Indira Gandhi helped him get elected to Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament). Following a meteoric rise, he became one of Gandhi’s most trusted lieutenants, and a minister in her cabinet by 1973. During the controversial Emergency of 1975—77, he was accused of committing gross excesses.

But he was sidelined from Congress during premiership of Indira’s son Rajiv Gandhi. Mukherjee had viewed himself, and not Rajiv, as the rightful successor to Indira following her assassination in 1984. Mukherjee lost his position in the cabinet and was sent to manage the regional West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee.

He later formed his own party — Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress — which merged with Congress in 1989 after reaching a consensus with Rajiv. After Rajiv’s assassination in 1991, Mukherjee’s political career revived when PM PV Narasimha Rao appointed him Planning Commission head in 1991 and foreign minister in 1995. After Rajiv’s assassination in 1991, Mukherjee helped in Sonia Gandhi’s ascension to party’s presidency in 1998.

He held a number of key cabinet portfolios — 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 Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament). After securing Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) nomination for country’s presidency in July 2012, Mukherjee comfortably defeated PA Sangma in the race to President House, winning 70 per cent of the electoral-college vote.

His term expired on July 25, 2017. In 2017, he decided not to run for re-election and to retire from politics after leaving the presidency due to “health complications relating to old age.”