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From UPA's troubleshooter to Congress decisionmaker, a look at life of 'Statesman' Pranab Mukherjee

Former President Pranab Mukherjee was conferred the country’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna in 2019. He served the country as its 13th President for five years from July 25, 2012.

August 31, 2020 / 07:32 PM IST

Former President Pranab Mukherjee passed away on August 31 at a hospital in New Delhi. He was in a critical condition after undergoing brain surgery. He had also tested positive for COVID-19 before the surgery and was on ventilator support.

"Shri Pranab Mukherjee's health condition continues to remain critical at Army Hospital (R&R) Delhi Cantonment. The former president, who underwent life-saving emergency surgery for brain clot on August 10, 2020, has not shown any improvement and his health status has worsened. He remains on ventilatory support," the hospital said in its bulletin on August 11.

The 84-year-old political leader was conferred the country’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna in 2019. He served the country as its 13th President for five years from July 25, 2012.

A congressman, Mukherjee is remembered as an elder statesman who has made a lasting contribution to India’s progress in nearly five-decade public life, steered governance and inspired youth towards excellence in academics and other fields.

Here are 10 things you need to know about Pranab Mukherjee

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> Born in Mirati, Bengal (now in West Bengal) on December 11, 1935, Mukherjee acquired a Master's degree in History and Political Science as well as a degree in Law from the University of Calcutta. He worked as a professor and a journalist before taking the plunge into politics.

> Mukherjee first ran for public office in 1969 with winning a seat in the Rajya Sabha (upper house). Since then, he served five times as a member of Rajya Sabha and twice as a member of the Lok Sabha.

> Known for his sharp memory, clarity of thought and grasp over issues, he has the rare distinction of serving as Foreign, Defence, Commerce and Finance Minister. He is often known as Prime Minister India never had. He was rated one of the best five finance ministers in 1984 according to a survey conducted by “Euro Money” Journal.

> In the seventies and eighties, he was instrumental in setting up regional rural banks (1975) and the EXIM Bank of India as well as National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (1981-82).

> Mukherjee was also instrumental in spearheading critical decisions on a range of issues as a minister in UPA governments from 2004 to 2012. Some of his decisions were on the issues of administrative reforms, Right to Information, Right to Employment, Food Security, energy security, Information Technology and telecommunication. He also played important roles in setting up of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Metro Rail.

> A quintessential Congressman who served for 23 years as a member of the Congress Working Committee, the highest policy-making body of the party, Mukherjee had good rapport with leaders of all the political parties. This later led him to be the trouble-shooter for the Congress.

> In his political career, Mukherjee worked with two Prime Ministers - Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi - and had excellent equation with both of them. Even as Modi belonged to the party he had strongly opposed in his political career, the two shared a warm relationship and lauded each other publicly.

> Mukherjee surprised many when he visited the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters at Nagpur in 2018 and addressed its cadre even as some Congress leaders urged him not to do so. In his widely watched speech, he emphasised India’s pluralism.

> Mukherjee also served on the Board of Governors of the IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and African Development Bank. In his life, Mukherjee has authored several books on the Indian Economy and Nation Building.

> Before the Bharat Ratna, he was conferred Padma Vibhusan, India’s second-highest civilian award, in 2008. He was given the Best Parliamentarian Award in 1997 and Best Administrator in India Award in 2011.
Somya Lohia
first published: Aug 31, 2020 05:57 pm
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