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A consensus orthodox politician of old Congress type who 'helped' status quoists

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, 'citizen' Pranab Mukherjee
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
Former president Pranab Mukherjees death is the passing away of a leader who adhered to parliamentary procedures and constitutional norms. Perhaps, Mukherjee was among the last of that generation that believed consensus as the only way to run the country, though without realizing that, sometimes, such consensus could help status-quoists. 
After his death, lots of tributes have poured in, including from the RSS, the Prime minister, who posted some of the photographs with “Pranab Da”. TV anchors called him a doyen to whom the 'sarkaar' bowed for his 'achievements'. Ironically, the same ‘sarkaar’ vilified Jawaharlal Nehru, his ideological mentor, yet glorified Mukherjee. Even then he could not do much to defend Nehru.
While I respect Mukherjee's administrative acumen, yet, somehow, I never became fond of his politics or personality. All through these years of his public life, if scrutinized, we will only find him an 'expert' in drawing room manoeuvres. He was considered as the main 'brain' of UPA I and II, but if we go through the two phases, we can see the gross failure of UPA in handling the Anna Hazare movement, allowing his own party's fortune to be doomed in 2014.
He was at the helm of affairs since 2004, but never did he advise strong action against the Gujarat government for its absolute failure in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots. What stopped UPA from even legally fighting cases and bringing accountability?
Today, every secular and liberal 'expert' is joining chorus with his or her Sanghi ‘jaat-waalahs’ to point towards the 'greatness' of Mukherjee. Some suggest that he would have been the 'greatest' Prime Minister India, others blamed the Rajiv Gandhi 'gang' in denying him his place in the Rajiv Cabinet.
Those who are writing today about the Rajiv 'gang' were actually 'fans' of the Gandhi family, but perhaps, in order to sound more 'secular' or independent, they are trying to distance themselves from the ‘family’, which is being vilified.
Mukherjee was Finance Minister during Indira Gandhi's period from 1980 to 1984. Then Manmohan Singh made him Minister for External Affairs as well as Defence Minister. In the UPA II he was also made the Finance Minister, when P Chidambaram was transferred to the Home Ministry in the aftermath of the Mumbai attack in November 2009.
I don't remember anything very specific that Mukherjee did at the Ministry of Finance except the one very well known fact -- that he was very close to the biggest 'industrial house', and this closeness got reflected in he attending the wedding ceremony of the family that owns the business house.
A whole lot of issues required a strong viewpoint, including CAA and NRC, yet we did not hear much from the citizen Mukherjee
As Finance Minister, Mukherjee imposed tax in retrospection on a company which was opposed by the then powers-that-be. Indeed, one can say that he was the political face of the 'apolitical' Manmohan Singh ministry. It happens when a prime minister is unable to deal with political friends or opponents.
That is where the Congress damaged itself then. Corruption rose to new levels, especially in the context of the 'narrative' of the privatisation mantra. 'Consensus' became the 'compulsion' of the Congress, and being familiar with all political leaders, Mukherjee became the most-favoured choice, including for the post of President of India.  
Mukherjee was a typical orthodox politician of old Congress type who would go by the rule books. He loved Parliament and can be said to be the master of parliamentary procedures. This happens, because Parliament does not have a Madhu Dandawate, an Indrajeet Gupta, a Somnath Chaterjee, a Chandra Shekhar, or the likes.
Surely, in terms of basics, he was perhaps the last of the stalwarts who appeared to stand above the type members of Parliament we lately have had. It is not difficult to understand as to why Mukherjee was remembered glowingly together by 'liberals' as well as Sanghi journalists.
As President of India, Mukherjee followed everything that the government advised him to do. He could not return a single bill and was doing everything to 'please' Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a possible second term.
There were reports that the business house in Mumbai was more than keen to bring him back to Rashtrapati Bhavan, but somehow internal political dynamics inside BJP and RSS could not come to a unanimity regarding him.
Yet, after retirement, Mukherjee continued to flirt with Sangh Parivar. He addressed an RSS gathering at Nagpur. There were a whole lot of issues which were important, including the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), but we did not hear much from the 'citizen Mukherjee'.
Unlike many political leaders and his contemporaries who did not compromise with power to live permanently in the heart of the capital, Mukherjee ensured he ‘remained’ with political power.
I don't see any of his actions or decisions where he can be hailed as champion of 'secularism' and 'social justice'. In fact, in a typical Brahmanical fashion, he would quote extensively great icons, yet ignore issues related to caste atrocities and caste discrimination, as if they never happened.
Mukherjee was a Bhadralok politician, and his religious Brahmanical values always reflected during the Puja ceremony, which he would always go to see at his native place, wanting to be seen performing all those rituals. He appeared to ignore: Religious rituals and intellectualism don't go together.
Ultimately, it is your religious thoughts -- whether you consider them as a personal matter or a matter of public display -- that decide your personality and outcome. It gives us an idea of people like Mukherjee, who is considered an intellectual, yet never cared to speak against superstitions and discrimination prevalent in our society. He seemed to enjoy Brahmanical privileges.
Mukherjee had a lot to do in Delhi. After all, he was part of political structure for so long, and decided our destiny. Yet, the fact is, he was never a common man's leader. He seemed to enjoy what he was.
Till 2004, he never contested Lok Sabha election, yet he was in the top circles of the ruling party in all decision-making bodies. He contested Lok Sabha election in 2004 from Jangipur in West Bengal for the first time and won. He represented the constituency twice.
There is no doubt that he was a political president who brought political wisdom to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, unlike those who pretended to be apolitical. His presence in the Rashtrapati Bhavan could have actually benefited governance, but all through he was just balancing things out.
Coronavirus is the worst period for anyone, particularly forthose who are in public life. It does not give an opportunity to near dear and ones to come and express their condolences. It is sad that Pranab Mukherjee passed away during this period. Be that as it may, he was the former President of India, hence got all the protocol that he deserved.
---
*Human rights defender

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