Friday, July 27, 2012

Pranab Mukherjee

Pranab Kumar Mukherjee (born 11 December 1935) is the 13th and current President of India, in office since July 2012. In a political career spanning six decades, Mukherjee was a senior leader of the Indian National Congress and occupied several ministerial portfolios in the Government of India. Prior to his election as President in July 2012, Mukherjee was Union Finance Minister, and the Congress party's top troubleshooter.

In 1969, Mukherjee got his break in politics thanks to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who helped him get elected to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India's Parliament, on a Congress ticket. Following a meteoric rise in the early phase of his career, he became one of Indira's most trusted lieutenants, and a minister in her cabinet in 1973. Mukherjee's service in a number of ministerial capacities culminated in his first stint as Finance Minister in 1982–84. Mukherjee was Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha from 1980 to 1985.

Mukherjee was sidelined from the Congress during the Prime Ministership of Rajiv Gandhi, Indira's son. Mukherjee had viewed himself, and not the inexperienced Rajiv, as the rightful successor to Indira following her assassination in 1984. Mukherjee lost out in the ensuing power struggle. He formed his own party, the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress, which merged with the Congress in 1989 after reaching a compromise with Rajiv Gandhi. Mukherjee's political career revived when Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao appointed him Planning Commission head in 1991 and Foreign Minister in 1995. Following this, as elder statesman of the Congress, Mukherjee was the principal architect of Sonia Gandhi's (Rajiv's widow) entry into politics in the late 1990s.

When the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came into power in 2004, Mukherjee, never a mass leader, won a Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) seat for the first time. From then until his resignation in 2012, Mukherjee was number-two in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government. He held a number of key cabinet portfolios—Defence (2004–06), External Affairs (2006–09) and Finance (2009–12)—apart from heading several Groups of Ministers (GoMs) and being Leader of House in the Lok Sabha. After securing the UPA's nomination for the country's Presidency, Mukherjee easily bested P. A. Sangma in the race to Rashtrapati Bhavan, winning 70 percent of the vote.

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