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Pranab's first priority to present budget for 2009-10

Veteran politician Pranab Mukherjee, hailed as one of the five best Finance Ministers in the world in 1984, will re-enter the North Block as Finance Minister of the new Congress-led UPA government.

india Updated: May 23, 2009 15:32 IST

Veteran politician Pranab Mukherjee, hailed as one of the five best Finance Ministers in the world in 1984, will re-enter the North Block as Finance Minister of the new Congress-led UPA government.

Often described as a man for all seasons and seen by his party as a trusted trouble shooter, Mukherjee's first task would be to present the budget for 2009-10 and continue the measures to boost the economy reeling under the impact of global financial crisis.

As author of the interim budget for the current fiscal, it would be easier for him to prepare the full budget for the fiscal and ensure continuity in the economic policies and programmes.

The government is required to get the budget passed by Parliament by July 31 as the vote-on-account (which allows government to withdraw money from Consolidated Fund) sought in the interim budget comes to end on July 31.

Mukherjee is a veritable encyclopedia on Congress movement and has been a minister in all the party governments since the mid-1970s, save the Rajiv Gandhi government between 1984 and 1989.

The eternal 'number two', Mukherjee was a trusted lieutenant of late Indira Gandhi under whom he was the powerful Minister of State for Revenue during the emergency and later became a full-fledged Finance Minister between 1982 and 1984.

Mukherjee, who after a gap of 25 years became the Finance Minister in the previous UPA government, had little opportunity to excel. It was an additional charge for the External Affairs Minister after the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram was shifted to Home Ministry.

The only significant thing he did as the Finance Minister was to present an interim budget for the outgoing government.

As Finance Minister in the 80s, he was the boss of the present Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was then the Governor of Reserve Bank of India. Although many thought he would become Prime Minister in 2004, Congress president Sonia Gandhi nominated Manmohan Singh for the responsibility.

Again the top constitutional post is said to have eluded him during the Presidential election in 2007 when Left parties reportedly favoured him but the Congress chose Pratibha Patil.

The 73-year-old leader from West Bengal, who took to politics under the tutelage of late Ajoy Mukherjee of the Bangla Congress, had briefly gone out of the Congress in the mid-1980s in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination.

After his reported brush with Rajiv Gandhi, who took over from his mother in 1984, Mukherjee made an exit from Congress and started his own party Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress only to merge it with the parent party again in the last years of the former Prime Minister.

From an obscure village in West Bengal's Birbhum district, Mukherjee has risen to become the number two in the corridors of power in Delhi shaping government policies and programmes.

He played an important role in Congress allying with the Trinamool Congress to inflict a humiliating defeat on the CPI(M)-led Left Front in West Bengal.

Mukherjee, who mostly made it to the upper house since 1969 when he first became a Rajya Sabha member, was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time from Jangipur constituency in Murshidabad district in 2004. He repeated the feat in this elections widening the victory margin to over 1.26 lakhs, from 34,360 in 2004.

He became the Deputy Minister of Industrial Development at the Centre for the first time in 1973 and went on to serve as Minister of State and Cabinet Minister.

Mukherjee was rated as one of the best finance ministers of the world in 1984 and was adjudged the best parliamentarian in 1997.

As Union Commerce Minister, Mukherjee contributed significantly to the negotiations leading to the establishment of the World Trade Organisation. For some time, during the 1990s he had held the dual charge of External Affairs Minister and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.

During the previous stint of the UPA government, as External Affairs Minister Mukherjee played a crucial role in negotiating the nuclear deal with the US and improving India's ties with it, besides mobilising world opinion against Pakistan after the terrorist strike in Mumbai.

He also functioned as the leader of the 14th Lok Sabha.

Apart from his assignments in the government, he played a significant role in the Congress as a member of CWC, the highest policy-making body of the party, as treasurer, general secretary, member of central election committee and the central parliamentary board of the party.

He was appointed president of West Bengal Pradesh Congress in 1985, 2000 and again last year when the PCC chief fell ill.

Widely travelled, he led several delegations to important conferences abroad and in the UN General Assembly.

Educated at Vidyasagar College, he began his career as a teacher and a journalist and was associated with publications like Desher Dak (Call of Motherland).

Mukherjee has authored several books including Midterm Poll, Beyond Survival, Emerging dimensions of Indian Economy, Off the Track, Saga of Struggle and Sacrifice and Challenge before the Nation.

He was a trustee of Bangiya Sahitya Parishad and president of Nikhil Bharat Banga Sahitya Sammelan. He also served as the chairman of the Planning Board of the Asiatic Society, from 1984-1986 and during 1992-96.