The ruling government coalition has finally ended the flip-flop drama choosing finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to be its candidate for the august post of President of India amidst stiff opposition from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The day’s events on Friday unfolded with Mulayam drawing his feet on support to former President Abdul Kalam amid UPA chief Sonia Gandhi’s staunch support for Pranab Mukherjee. While she rallied all other allies of the UPA, Mamata firm saying, “We are firm on the candidature of Kalam. He is the fittest candidate. We are not shifting from our stand of what we have announced earlier,” Banerjee told PTI. Banerjee said “I never bow my head to anyone.”
Soon after the announcement, support for Pranabda began pouring from bothe SP and BSP in Uttar Pradesh while DMK in Tamil Nadu extended an “angavastram” to him as a gesture of strong support.
Now that, the UPA candidate is in the frey, the ball is in the court of the BJP-led NDA coalition. If they field any candidate, he might still fall short of 25,000 votes in the collegiate.
Since the UPA has announced Pranab’s candidature after seeking support from the CPM, it is likely that Pranab Mukherjee will sail through the test of his lifetime for the second time. His first election to the Lok Sabha, in fact, came in 2004 and he was a non-elected member of the Rajya Sabha till then. He served as cabinet minister of Defence, Finance, External Affairs, Revenue, Shipping, Transport, Communication, Economic Affairs, Commerce and Industry and was India’s official signatory to the WTO.
Pranab Mukherjee’s wife and the woman who stood strongly behind him in his career was Suvra Mukherjee. He has two sons, Abhijit and Indrajit and a daughter, Sahrmishtha Mukherjee, who was a sociology scholar from JNU.
Otherwise, his elevation would mean Congress has to learn how to live without the ultimate trouble-shooter in its ranks. Will he help the Congress when he moves into Raisina Hill in July? The litmus test will come in the next general elections in 2014 when he has to invite the majority party leader to form the government. In a likelihood of a divided verdict, his role may become crucial.