With Mamata Banerjee throwing her weight behind the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) nominee Pranab Mukherjee for the Presidential elections, 24 hours before the crucial poll, a comfortably-placed Mukherjee was reading former President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s speeches on Wednesday.
At the 13 Talkatora Road bungalow, his home for 16 years, Mukherjee confessed: “Unlike the Lok Sabha elections, in this election, there is no worry.”
Mukherjee fought a tough battle in 2004 to win from the Jangipur parliamentary constituency. He was re-elected in 2009.
The former finance minister, who was also the ruling UPA’s troubleshooter, said he had been resting for last three days. He finished his country-wide campaign on July 15.
“To reflect, with no files, no GoMs (group of ministers) and no meetings,” Mukherjee said, adding with a smile: “This is possibly the first time, I am neither in the party, nor in the government.”
While UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi hosted a lunch for allies on Wednesday to thank them for their support, Mukherjee was busy reading Radhakrishnan’s speeches. Known for his encyclopedic memory and knowledge of parliamentary history, Mukherjee said matter of factly, “The President has to read a lot.”
His long political career, involving a variety of posts and portfolios, has also entailed several shifting of houses, something Mukherjee’s wife has never liked. For ‘Pranabda’, as he is referred to by most politicians, the “most difficult” part of shifting house to Raisina Hill, is “packing my books”.
The President, apart from his other duties, is also entrusted with the responsibility of defending the Constitution.
Referring to Radhakrishnan, Mukherjee said: “That was the first and only time when the incumbent President conferred a Bharat Ratna on the outgoing President, Rajendra babu (Rajendra Prasad) and that, too, on the same day as his acceptance speech.”
The result of the Presidential election is already a foregone conclusion. Mukherjee is set to take oath of office and read his acceptance speech on July 25, as the numbers clearly favour him in tomorrow’s election.
Former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma, supported by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, is Mukherjee’s rival in the election.
The culmination of his five decades in politics with a stint in Rashtrapati Bhavan, which will keep him away from active politics, has not dismayed the veteran politician.
While he may have to give up a lot of the older habits that he was accustomed to like his frequent visits to Kolkata and meeting up with journalists, Mukherjee is clearly looking forward to a Presidential tenure.