As the Union Budget 2011-12 getting closer by the seconds, all eyes are set on our finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee.
Hailed as one of the chief trouble shooters for the Congress, Mukherjee is a master of India`s turbulent politics and considered by many as the sharpest mind in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s cabinet with deep knowledge of the changing dynamics of India`s strategic and economic policies. He remains a heavyweight in decision-making by the Congress party.
Appointed the finance minister of India in May 2009 at a time when the Congress was going through a bad political patch, Mukherjee has been credited as one of the biggest backbones of the party and for reviving it.
And as the Congress led UPA government is all set roll out the Union Budget for 2011-12, all eyes are on the finance minister – one has too considering the Indian economy is blooming and he has played a vital role behind it.
At this juncture, it is also important for us to know who Pranab Mukherjee is, the man who is running our economy.
Pranab Mukherjee was born and brought up in a small village of Mirati in West Bengal. His journey in the world of Indian politics has been full of ups and downs.
He stepped into a political career taking inspiration from his father Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee, who was an active member of the Congress party since 1920. Kamada, a true Indian patriot, was known for his valour and his strong opposition to the British rule; his participation in the freedom struggle earned him the honour of being jailed for more than 10 years.
Pranab started his career as a college teacher. He later became a journalist with the Bengali newspaper Desher Dak.
This veteran made his foray into Indian Politics in 1969 when he was elected a member of the Rajya Sabha from the Congress Party. He was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1975, 1981, 1993 and 1999.
Pranab’s first step into the Union Cabinet was more of an amusing accident than a well thought out decision by the then Prime Minister. In the year 1973, the number of ministers in the cabinet was found to be inauspicious by the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Pranab was then included in the squad so as to ward off any evil effects of an inappropriate number. And thus he joined the cabinet as Deputy Minister for Industrial Development.
Pranab went on to handle almost all the top ministries at different stages of his career. His first stint as the Finance Minister was in 1982, when he held the post for two years. He brought about fiscal reforms and freed exports from government controls. He also brought in vital foreign exchange.
“He saw to it that India did not need to pick up the last USD 1.1 billion installment of an IMF loan it had contracted earlier ... this was the first signs of India’s resurgence,” says a Finance Ministry official.
His feat with the country’s finance was so appreciated that he was even rated as the World’s Best Finance Minister according to a survey by Euromoney Magazine.
Except for a short period in the mid-80s when he was forced to quit the party, Pranab has always been an integral part of the Congress governments from the very beginning of his political career.
The assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi brought her son Rajiv Gandhi to power. Despite being an intimate and loyal member of the Congress party, Pranab was ignored while forming the cabinet. Pranab took this as a slight, and quit the party in protest.
He went on to form his own party, the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress, but later merged it with Congress in 1989 after a settlement with Rajiv.
Pranab’s political career gained momentum again when he was appointed the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and subsequently a Union Cabinet Minister in PV Narasimha Rao government. He served as the External Affairs Minister from 1995 to 1996 in Rao’s government. He was also voted as Outstanding Parliamentarian in 1997.
Pranab at times is also referred as the ‘man of all seasons’; because as a politician, the minister has the distinction of heading varied profiles, for example, Defence, Finance, External Affairs, Revenue, Shipping, Transport, Communication, Economic Affairs, Commerce and Industry.
Other Laurels claimed internationally
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 1984, 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.