New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee hosted a farewell banquet for Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his wife Mrs Gursharan Kaur, and his Union Council of Ministers, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here on Saturday night.
The banquet was attended by about 75 dignitaries, including Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari and his wife, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj (representing the Bharatiya Janata Party), most ministers of the Union Cabinet, the Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and the National Security Adviser, sources attending the event at the Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
The President was accompanied by his daughter, they added.
President Mukherjee said it was not customary to speak on such an occasion and added that he was departing from normal practice and making an exception, as the gentleman he was saying goodbye to, was a person with whom he had been working with for more than four decades.
He said that he had known Dr Manmohan Singh from the days when he (President Mukherjee) was the Deputy Finance Minister in the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the early 1970s.
Mukherjee said that he was impressed with the depth of knowledge and advice that Dr Manmohan Singh used to give his senior colleagues and him on crucial economic issues.
"The Prime Minister`s (Dr Singh`s) contribution in the economic reforms of the 1990s will always be remembered by the country. As a result of these reforms, India was able to break out of the Hindu growth rate," said President Mukherjee.
He further stated that as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Dr Singh had made major contributions in the area of social banking.
“He also served the nation as the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Finance Minister and Prime Minister. The people will always remember the mark that he has left and the contributions that he has made in various capacities,” President Mukherjee said.
At a personal level, sources attending the banquet, quoted President Mukherjee, as saying that he wanted to place on record how fortunate he had been to receive the Prime Minister`s advice and support in the discharge of his responsibilities in the government over long years, and expressed the hope that the Prime Minister would devote the remaining years of his life in the service of the nation.
Responding to the President`s farewell speech, the Prime Minister said: "Forgive me if I become emotional on this occasion. Our partnership goes back 40 years. I worked as secretary and adviser in the Finance Ministry in the 1980s, when President Mukherjee was the Finance Minister."
Dr Singh recalled that their relations got further strengthened when he was the Member Secretary of the Planning Commission and Reserve Bank of India Governor.
The Prime Minister said that when the economic reforms were implemented in the 1990s, the President`s support was of great value.
"Without this support, the reforms would not have achieved the momentum it acquired," he added.
Dr Singh described President Mukherjee as a valued colleague in the UPA Government, and recalled that as the senior most member of the Union Council of Ministers, he (Mukherjee) shouldered an enormous burden through the Group of Ministers (GoMs).
"In all of these areas, the President`s contributions have been of lasting value," Dr Singh said.
He further recalled that as Prime Minister, he had sought President Mukherjee`s guidance on every national issue since he had adorned the august office (of president).
"The President`s wisdom, knowledge and experience is a great national asset," Dr Singh said, and added that he would like to thank the President for his enormous contributions to nation building from the core of his heart.
The Prime Minister said that his (the President`s) contributions have been of inestimable value.