With West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

A Man of Durbar Politics

By Achin Roy
KOLKATA: Bharat Ratna Pranab Mukherjee, who rose to the top from a mere village school teacher, wrote a success story of single minded devotion and unflinching loyalty. He was a family man and also the family’s man to ride on the crest of glory. He served the royal Gandhi family almost three generations from Indira to Sonia. And the family decided when to derail him, when to reinstate him as also he was not to be PM but would be the Rastrapati.
Son of a Congress freedom fighter, Pranab joined at an early age, almost as an errand man, Ajay Mukherjee’s Bangla Congress — a breakaway faction of the state Congress.Then Ajay was the Chief Minister of the United Front Government of Bengal,dominated by the left.This gave Pranab a golden opportunity to come in close contact with Deputy CM Jyoti Basu, which paid rich dividends later in his life.
After the fall of the second UF Government, when Bangla Congress was dissolved, Ajay Mukherjee recommended Pranab to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a suitable boy. Pranab making full use of this golden opportunity, endeared himself to Indira as her trusted lieutenant  and in turn, man of all seasons. Close contact with a personality like Indira shaped the metamorphosis of Pranab into an enlightened and accomplished modern man. And with the passage of time he became an astute player of Parliamentary and DURBAR politics.
Elected to the Rajya Sabha from Bengal, he became a minister and was instrumental in handing over a profit making Government business to senior Ambani to make him a polyester king and duly leave an industrial empire. Slowly and steadily marching forward, Pranab, by the grace of Indira, advanced to be the finance minister and the second man in the cabinet.
Meanwhile, he became a very important man playing the role of go between Indira and Jyoti Basu to come to an unholy understanding to fortify the left misrule of terror and loot in Bengal.  As a follow up of the understanding, courtesy Pranab, the Left Front reigned supreme for three decades with no opposition. The unholy alliance broke when the great theorist Prakash Karat withdrew support from UPA 1 and Mamata Banerjee breaking away from the nexus took up cudgels of anti left opposition.
The man who would be the defender of the Constitution, had violated the Constitution, being elected to the RS from Gujarat without being a resident as demanded in the provision. Later, of course, the ‘wrong’ was set right by a constitutional amendment. As Pranab had no popular base he had to be a member of RS from here and there. At the fag end, he, however, was elected to Lok Sabha from Adhir Choudhury’s citadel, Jangipur, thanks to noncombatant CPM.
Though many people are proud of him as a Bangali but the irony of it, even his sworn enemy will not say that he had done anything for Bengal. In his 50 years of political life at the Central powerhouse, his contribution to his birthplace is a big zero. He held important portfolios like Finance, Commerce, Defence and External Affairs and did a good job as an executive but failed to make a lasting mark because of lack of vision.
As an External Affairs minister he sent word to the Moscow ambassador to see to it that the visiting Mukherjee Commission inquiring Netaji disappearance, did not get any access to the Russian archives, classified or unclassified. And the Commission had to return empty handed. Pranab also once took the initiative to bring the so-called urn of the Netaji ashes from Japan but it was nipped in the bud in the face of public outcry. It was all he could do for Bengal.
That apart, on Pranab’s achievement as an individual, it must be said that from a remote village to Rashtrapati Bhavan is a long way off. All kudos to Pranab that he reinvented and recreated himself to be a man of the world. With his sharp intellect and elephantine memory, he emerged as a very eloquent parliamentarian, par excellence with equanimity and poise. Having an amiable disposition and cool composure, he was accessible to all, irrespective of party lines. When Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was in exile in New Delhi, after the brutal assassination of her family, Pranab Mukherjee was her guardian angel. So also with the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Pranabda was like a true elder brother for both through many vagaries of life.
As the Rastrapati, Pranab Mukherjee also extended a helping hand with his rich political sagacity to the newly-elected, inexperienced Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A grateful Modi acknowledged it openly, thanking Pranabda for rendering his services to the nation above partylines. Perhaps this act earned  Pranab the highest civilian award Bharat Ratna.
At the end of the day, Pranab Mukherjee proved that nothing succeeds like success.
(The views expressed in the above article are of the writer’s)
With former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
With former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi