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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014

A year of action and decisions for President Pranab

Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 25, 2013
First Published: 09:31 IST(25/7/2013) | Last Updated: 18:09 IST(25/7/2013)

When Pranab Mukherjee was elected as the President of India, one of his former cabinet colleagues had told him that after four decades of active political life, Mukherjee may get 'bored' in the relaxed environment of Rashtrapati Bhavan. However, Mukherjee's ability to take swift decisions in his constitutional capacity and his focus on issues such as education have kept him busy and in news.

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As he completed first year in the highest office on Thursday, Mukherjee's tenure was marked not just by his rejection of mercy petitions of Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab, leading to their hanging, but also opening the gates of Rashtrapati Bhavan for aam aadmi.

However, Mukherjee's absence in the government has left a void that is yet to be filled. Although Sushilkumar Shinde has stepped in Mukherjee's shoes as the leader of the Lok Sabha, he is yet to show an impressive performance and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi has been forced to take a more active role in managing the floor of the Parliament and running the coalition, earlier handled by Mukherjee.

It is perhaps a mere coincidence that after the exit of Mukherjee--the key interlocutor between the Congress and the allies--four allies of the UPA have left the coalition including Trinamool and DMK. The Congress also faced severe attack from the Opposition for allegedly defying Mukherjee's assurance on the floor of the House on FDI in multi-brand retail.

While the mercy petitions of Kasab and Guru were doing the rounds for years, the new President took a bold stand and cleared the way for their hanging within three months. He has cleared all files related to mercy petitions.

Mukherjee's predecessor Pratibha Patil's frequent foreign trips had cost the state exchequer a whopping Rs. 205 crore, leading to a controversy. But Mukherjee's first year as President saw just two foreign trips, to Bangladesh and Mauritius. He is slated to go to Belgium and Turkey in October.

He instead chose to extensively travel in domestic circuit and has already visited all states of India. Among his popular initiatives are the Rashtrapati Bhavan tours for ordinary visitors. The Bhavan has also undergone a major facelift and many rooms of historical importance, which were reduced to store rooms during Patil's time, have now been restored to their full glory.

Sports facilities in Rashtrapati Bhavan have also been opened for all residents of the President's estate. A cricket pitch has been put up for children of Rashtrapati Bhavan employees and diet and sports kits have been distributed among them.

He has been meeting the vice chancellors of central universities regularly and suggesting measures on various areas of higher education.


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