Pranab Mukherjee (1935 – 2020): Birth, Education and Political Career

Former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee died on 31 August 2020, at the age of 84, after a prolonged illness. Pranab Mukherjee held ten ministerial portfolios, signed historic agreements such as GATT and Indo-US Nuclear treaty, positioned himself as a trusted support system to at least three Congress presidents and a reliable vice-captain to as many Prime Ministers. Pranab Mukherjee was sworn in as 13th President of India on July 25, 2012, and he served India till 2017. In the year 2019, he was honoured with India’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna.

Early Life & Education

Pranab Mukherjee was born on 11 December 1935 in Mirati village located in the Birbhum District of West Bengal. He was the son of Shri Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee and Smt. Rajlakshmi Mukherjee. Pranab Mukherjee’s father was a freedom fighter and later became a representative of Indian National Congress. He was also a member of All India Congress Committee. Pranab Mukherjee studied in Suri Vidyasagar College in the Birbhum District of West Bengal. He completed his M.A. in History and Political Science and thereafter an LL.B degree from the University of Calcutta.

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Personal Life

Pranab Mukherjee married Surva Mukherjee on July 13, 1957. The couple had two sons (Indrajit Mukherjee and Abhijit Mukherjee) and a daughter (Sharmistha Mukherjee). His wife Surva migrated from Narail, Bangladesh to Kolkata when she was 10. She died on August 18, 2015, due to a cardiac arrest, at the age of 74. Pranab Mukherjee’s elder son Abhijit is a Congress MP from Jangipur, West Bengal and his daughter Sharmishtha is a Kathak dancer and a politician with Congress.

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Political Career

Pranab Mukherjee entered politics in 1969 by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who guided him to become a member at the Rajya Sabha and from that time he considers Mrs. Gandhi as his mentor. He was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1975, 1981, 1993 and 1999. Pranab Mukherjee was also described as the ‘man for all seasons’. Let’s have a look at his political career’s timeline.

  • 1975-1977: He was active during the controversial Emergency which was imposed on India for two years
  • 1979: Deputy Leader of Indian National Congress Rajya Sabha
  • 1980: Leader of the House. In the absence of Prime Minister, he presided over the cabinet meetings.
  • 1982-1984: Finance Minister and appointed Manmohan Singh as the RBI Governor.
  • 1984: After the assassination of Indira Gandhi in he was side-lined from the Congress under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi. He was barred from the mainstream politics and sent to the regional West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee. After this Mr Mukherjee formed Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress (RSC) in West Bengal which later merged with the Congress after a compromise with Rajiv Gandhi.
  • 1991: After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, he served as the Deputy Chairman of the Indian planning commission.
  • 1995-1996: External Affairs Minister in Narasimha Rao’s cabinet.
  • 1998-1999: Mukherjee was appointed as the General Secretary of the AICC after Sonia Gandhi became the President of Congress.
  • 2000 – 2010: Pranab Mukherjee served as the President of the West Bengal Congress.
  • From 23 May 2004 to 24 October 2006, he was the Union Cabinet Minister of Defense.
  • From June 2004 to June 2012, he was the Leader of the House of the Lok Sabha.
  • From 25 October 2006 to 23 May 2009, he was the Union Cabinet Minister of External Affairs.
  • From 24 January 2009 to May 2009 he was the Union Cabinet Minister of Finance.
  • On 20 May 2009, he was elected as a member of the 15th Lok Sabha for the second time.
  • From 2009 to 26 June 2012 he was the Union Cabinet Minister of Finance.
  • On 25 June he resigned from the Indian National Congress party, before contesting for the office of the President of India.

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Awards & Honours

  • Rated as Best Finance Minister of the World in 1984 by the Euromoney magazine.
  • In 1997 he was honoured with the Best Parliamentarian Award.
  • In 2008 he was honoured with second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan,
  • 2019: Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award
  • 2013: Bangladesh Liberation War Honour
  • 2013: Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sanmanona
  • 2016: Grand Cross of National Order of the Ivory Coast, highest state order of knighthood of the Ivory Coast

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Books Written by Pranab Mukherjee

  • Mid-Term Poll in the year 1969
  • Beyond Survival – Emerging Dimensions of Indian Economy in the year 1984
  • Off the Track in the year 1987
  • Challenges Before the Nation in the year 1992
  • Saga of Struggle and Sacrifice in the year 1992

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