HindustanTimes Fri,26 Dec 2014

Workaholic Pranab readies for slowdown

Gaurav Choudhury and Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 23, 2012
First Published: 00:03 IST(23/7/2012) | Last Updated: 15:10 IST(23/7/2012)

A sea change awaits ‘workaholic’ Pranab Mukherjee’s life.

Mukherjee, till the very last day in office as finance minister, kept a 10-15 hour work schedule that included at least 15 daily appointments. He would reach office by 10 in the morning and devote his pre-lunch hours to work related to the finance ministry.

As Mukherjee moves towards India's most well-known address—Rashtrapati Bhawan—he expects to find more time to write his diary, read books and probably finish his autobiography.

From meetings for managing distant industrial lobbies to those for settling political issues, Mukherjee's days as a finance minister were never short of unscheduled events. He was, in a sense, India's economic czar — heading most of the ministerial panels the cabinet outsources its decision-making to. Over the last eight years, he was the UPA government’s “go-to person” on critical policies and political decisions — called upon to hammer out thorny issues and shepherd Asia’s third-largest economy through a bumpy economic environment.

As a senior cabinet minister quipped recently, “After a few months, you may get bored. You led such an active life and, suddenly, you may find so little work to do.”

“I agree with him,” Mukherjee said laughingly during an informal chat with HT last week.

“The political appointments mostly took place after 5 in the evening,” an official said, adding that Mukherjee’s daily life almost always included a short post-lunch nap in his ante room.

On Friday, the day of the presidential election, Mukherjee had just one engagement — go to Parliament at 10.40 am for a few hours.

At home, he maintained thick confidentiality on all affairs related to policy and government. Recalling how Mukherjee mixed home truths with stern political sermons at the breakfast table way back in 1983, his son Abhijit — an MLA — said, “Those days, I used to ride a motorbike. I asked my mother for some money to tank up as the petrol prices were expected to go up after the budget.

Dad shot back, asking me not to take out the bike from our home till the budget was presented, because if I filled up my tank, it would give the impression that the budget proposals were known to me.”

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