Pranab versus who?

  • Aurangzeb Naqshbandi and Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Jun 16, 2012 08:30 IST
  • Pranab Mukherjee

    Pranab Mukherjee participating in a puja ceremony at his ancestral home in Mirati, near Bolpur, Birbhum in 2009. Back then, Mukherjee was the Union finance ...

  • Pranab Mukherjee

    Pranab Mukherjee in celebration mode with the then state Youth Congress (I) chief Mamata Banerjee after his victory in the biennial poll to Rajya Sabha ...

  • Pranab Mukherjee

    Pranab Mukherjee with his wife, Suvra Mukherjee in 1987. The two preferred to stay at 13, Talkatora Road even though Mukherjee was entitled to a ...

  • Pranab Mukherjee

    Pranab Mukherjee with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the Delhi airport in 1986. HT file photo

  • Pranab Mukherjee

    Pranab Mukherjee going through his papers during his stint as finance minister in 1983.  HT file photo

  • Pranab Mukherjee

    All through his political career, UPA's Presidential candidate, Pranab Mukherjee, has been successful in maintaining an unblemished image and upholding probity in public life.

  • Pranab Mukherjee

    Mukherjee went through a bad phase when, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, he fell out of favour vis-à-vis Rajiv Gandhi. He remained out in ...

  • Pranab Mukherjee

    He devours books, works well past midnight, and said in a rare peek into his personal life in an interview that he hardly was able ...

  • Pranab Mukherjee

    He is down to earth, lives modestly, and has admitted many a time that he cannot speak polished English. For one who is supremely self-confident, ...

  • Pranab Mukherjee

    His indispensability is reflected in the number of key ministerial decision-making groups, known as Group of Ministers, he has been asked to head since 2004 ...

The official announcement confirming finance minister Pranab Mukherjee as the UPA’s presidential candidate finally came on Friday, immediately drawing support from different political parties and, thus, check-mating the sulking Trinamool Congress boss Mamata Banerjee.

With the Samajwadi Party (SP) — which had earlier joined hands with Banerjee — Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and others backing him, Mukherjee told HT: “Now, let me win the race.”

Mukherjee, however, appears all set to be the next president unless former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma, who is likely to contest, springs a surprise.

The announcement by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi clearly indicated the Congress was willing to take the risk of snubbing Banerjee, who later said in Kolkata: “The game is not yet over.”

On Wednesday, Gandhi was upset with Banerjee for making public the details of their discussions. It was quite evident at Friday’s UPA meeting, where Gandhi said it was unfortunate an ally had rejected UPA’s choices. But, in the end, Gandhi had her way.

It was immediately after Banerjee’s meeting with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday, announcing the names of PM Manmohan Singh, former president APJ Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee as their choices, that Congress managers reached out to other parties.

By Friday morning, the SP chief was “back on track” and the deal sealed. At the UPA meeting, the Congress leadership told its allies both the SP and BSP supported Mukherjee.

“Of all the names, Mukherjee is the most capable, mature and correct candidate,” BSP chief Mayawati said. The SP chief, too, sought to mend fences: “He is an able, experienced and scholarly parliamentarian.”

While the UPA chief appealed to all parties to support Mukherjee, the PM reached out to the Opposition, calling up the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj.

V Narayanasamy, MoS in the PMO, said Mukherjee would resign after Singh’s return from his nine-day foreign trip on June 23 and would launch his campaign from Tamil Nadu.


Mukherjee’s exit from North Block is expected to result in major changes in the cabinet. The finance portfolio may go to the PM for now.

Asked about his successor, Mukherjee said, “I don’t think I am the depository of all knowledge and expertise. In our government and our party, there are a number of people who can handle difficult economic situations.”

“The PM himself is an eminent economist and under his stewardship, we will overcome this temporary crisis.”

Gandhi has another tough task at hand — naming the next leader of the House in Lok Sabha. The names doing the rounds are P Chidambaram, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Jaipal Reddy.


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