Pranab Mukherjee

Pranab Kumar Mukherjee (born December 11, 1935, West Bengal, India) is the Minister for External Affairs of India in the Manmohan Singh-led Government of India. A prominent leader of the Indian National Congress in the 14th Lok Sabha, he is known to be a competent party apparatchik, "a prominent Gandhi family loyalist who did not win a popular election until 2004".

He has a degree in law from the University of Calcutta and has been an advocate and college teacher at some time. He also holds Masters degree in both History and Political Science, and an honorary D. Litt.

Early life

Pranab Mukherjee was born in Mirati village near Kirnahar town, District Birbhum, West Bengal, on December 11, 1935, the son of Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee and Rajlakshmi Mukherjee. His father was active in the Congress party from 1920, was a member of AICC, and West Bengal Legislative Council (1952-64), and President, District Congress Committee, Birbhum (WB). His father was also a respected freedom fighter who had been sent to prison for more than 10 years for his opposition to the British rule. He attended the Suri Vidyasagar College, Suri (Birbhum), then affiliated with the University of Calcutta.

He married Suvra Mukherjee on July 13, 1957 and has two sons and a daughter.

Political career

Pranab Mukherjee has a parliamentary career of nearly four decades, having first become a Rajya Sabha (upper house) member from the Congress Party in 1969; he was re-elected in 1975, 1981, 1993 and 1999. In 1973, he joined the cabinet as Union Deputy Minister, Industrial Development. His initial inclusion was an accident, having gone to witness the swearing in of ministers at Rashtrapathi Bhavan, when the number to be sworn in was found inauspicious, the spectator Pranab was added on to make it auspicious.

He rose through a series of cabinet posts to become the Finance Minister of India from 1982 to 1984. In 1984, he was rated as the best Finance Minister of the World according to a survey of Euromoney magazine. His term was noted for India not withdrawing the last US$ 1.1 billion instalment of an IMF loan. Dr. Manmohan Singh was serving RBI as Governor during Pranab's term as Finance Minister. As he did not fully endorse the summary installment of Rajiv Gandhi as the caretaker Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi's assassination, he was not included in Rajiv's cabinet. He left the Congress party for a brief period but re-entered in 1989. His political career revived when P. V. Narasimha Rao chose to appoint him as deputy chairman of the planning commission and subsequently as a union cabinet minister. He served as External Affairs Minister for the first time from 1995 to 1996 in Rao's cabinet. In 1997 he was voted Outstanding Parliamentarian.

He was also president of West Bengal state unit of Congress in 1985.

International role

Pranab Mukherjee has been a member of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund, of the World Bank, of the Asian Development Bank, and of the African Development Bank. In 1900(?), he chaired the Group of 24 attached to the IMF and World Bank. Between May and November 1995, he presided over the SAARC Council of Ministers Conference.

Competent party official

Mukherjee is very well respected within the party; social policies." Other media accounts describe him as having "a reputation as a number-crunching politician with a phenomenal memory and an unerring survival instinct."

After Sonia Gandhi reluctantly agreed to join politics, Pranab Mukherjee was one of her key mentors, guiding her through difficult situations with examples of how her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi would have done things. Mukherjee's unfailing loyalty and competence have led to his closeness to Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, and helped him gain the prestigious position of Defence Minister of India when the party came to power in 2004.

He has also held the position of Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission from 1991 to 1996.

His talents were on display during the negotiations for the Patent's Amendment Bill in early 2005. The Congress was committed to passing an IP bill, but their allies in the United Progressive Alliance from the Left front had a long tradition of opposing some of the monopoly aspects of intellectual property. Pranab Mukherjee, as Defence Minister, was not formally involved but was roped in for his negotiation skills. He drew on many old alliances including the CPI-M leader Jyoti Basu, and formed new intermediary positions, which included product patent and little else. Then he had to convince his own colleagues including commerce minister Kamal Nath, at one point saying: "An imperfect legislation is better than no legislation." Finally the bill was approved on March 23, 2005.

Views on corruption

Pranab Mukherjee himself appears to have a clean image, but is a pragmatist. In an interview to in 1998, he was asked about the sleaze in the Congress government, in which he was the Minister for External Affairs. He replied:

Corruption is an issue. We have dealt with it in the manifesto. But I am sorry to say that these scams are not confined to the Congress or the Congress government alone. There are so many scams. So many leaders of various political parties are involved in them. So it would be too simplistic to say that the Congress government was involved in scams.

Foreign Minister: October 2006

Pranab Mukherjee with US President George W. Bush in 2008. On 24 October 2006, he was appointed as the External Affairs Minister of India. His replacement in the Defence Ministry is A.K. Antony, a senior Congress Party politician and former Chief Minister of the southern state of Kerala. Pranab Mukherjee was briefly considered for the post of the largely ceremonial Indian presidency. But his name was subsequently dropped after his contribution in the Union Cabinet was considered practically indispensable. Among Mukherjee's current legacy was the successful signing of the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement with the US government and then with the Nuclear Suppliers Group, allowing India to participate in civilian nuclear trade in spite of not having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He was also awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honor in 2007.


Ratings Result

Score: 5.5, Ratings: 2

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