New Delhi: Pranab Mukherjee, a union minister for decades together, Tuesday resigned from the cabinet to contest the July 19 presidential election as the candidate of the ruling United Progressive Alliance.
"Today, I stand ready to embark on a new journey. I feel honoured and humbled on my nomination as a candidate to contest the presidential election," Mukherjee told reporters outside the North Block office of his finance ministry before submitting the resignation letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Mukherjee said besides the United Progressive Alliance partners, he enjoyed support of many regional parties, including the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Janta Dal (United), Shiv Sena, the CPI-M and Forward Bloc.
An official statement from Rashtrapati Bhavan later said that President Pratibha Patil has accepted Mukherjee's resignation and the prime minister will keep the crucial finance portfolio with himself.
In an emotional farewell statement after saying good-bye to the North Block, from where he presided over the country's financial affairs since January 2009, Mukherjee said all the decisions he had taken during his career might not have been correct.
"Yet, standing on the brink of such an honour, I also feel a tinge of sentiment at the thought of leaving behind my life as a political activist, spanning over four decades," he said.
"I will miss my colleagues in the ministry of finance. And I will also miss being stopped while getting into my car and getting out of my car in front of the ministry of finance by you all," he said to media persons.
The 77-year-old Mukherjee claimed that he had taken all the decisions during his four-decade long political career keeping in mind the interests of the common people.
"I have travelled a great distance in my life but I always remind myself that I was born in a remote village in Bengal. I saw the lives of poor farmers and simple folks of rural India," he said.
"I know that not every decision I have taken might have been right. But I have taken those decisions always keeping in mind those simple and poor people I knew from my childhood," Mukherjee added.
Mukherjee has been criticised for the poor show of macro-economy during his stint as the finance minister.
Economic growth slumped to nine-year low of 5.3 percent in the quarter ended March 31, 2012. Rupee got battered and hit a record low of 57.33 against a dollar last week.
In fact, the Indian currency has lost over 46 percent of its value since touching a high of 39 against a dollar in January 2008.
There had been widespread perception of policy paralysis as the government was not able to push forward major economic reforms in the last three years.
Mukherjee also drew flak for several decisions he took during his tenure as the finance minister in the UPA government, and was forced to roll back several proposals, including FDI in multi-brand retail, duties on jewellery and property transactions, and petrol price hike.
After widespread criticism from business community, Mukherjee deferred the implementation of the general anti-avoidance rules (GAAR) which he announced in the Union Budget for 2012-13.
Implementation of GAAR, which is aimed at checking loopholes in taxation system, has been deferred till March 31, 2013.