Mukherjee's political career began in 1969, when he managed the
successful Midnapore by-election campaign of an independent candidate, V. K. Krishna Menon.
Then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, recognised Mukherjee's talents and recruited
him to her party, the Indian National Congress. He became a member of the Rajya
Sabha (the upper house of Indian parliament) in July 1969. Mukherjee was re-elected to the
house in 1975, 1981, 1993 and 1999.
Mukherjee became a Gandhi loyalist and was often described as his "man for all
seasons." Mukherjee's rise was rapid in the early phase of his career and he was appointed
Union Deputy Minister of Industrial Development in Indira Gandhi's cabinet in 1973.
Mukherjee was active in the Indian cabinet during the controversial Internal Emergency of
1975–77. Ruling Congress politicians of the day including Mukherjee were accused of using
extra-constitutional powers to "wreck established norms and rules of governance." Following
the Congress's defeat in the 1977 general elections, the newly formed Janata
government-appointed Shah Commission indicted Mukherjee; however, the commission was itself
later indicted for stepping "outside its jurisdiction" in 1979. Mukherjee emerged unscathed
and rose through a series of cabinet posts to become Finance Minister from 1982 to 1984.
His term was noted for his work in improving the finances of the government that enabled
Gandhi to score a political point by returning the last instalment of India's
first IMF loan. As Finance Minister, Mukherjee signed the letter appointing Manmohan
Singh as Governor of the Reserve Bank of India.
Political party Role
Pranab Mukherjee was "very well respected within the party social circles." Media accounts
describe him as having "a reputation as a number-crunching politician with a phenomenal
memory and an unerring survival instinct."
Mukherjee became a member of the Congress Working Committee on 27 January 1978. He also
became a member of the Central Parliamentary Board of the All India Congress
Committee (AICC) that year. Mukherjee briefly held the position of treasurer of the AICC and
the Congress party in 1978.
Mukherjee was appointed chairman of the Campaign Committee of AICC for conducting National
Elections to Parliament in 1984, 1991, 1996, and 1998. He was chairman of the Central
Election Coordination Committee of the AICC from 28 June 1999 to 2012. He was appointed to
the Central Election Committee on 12 December 2001. Mukherjee was appointed General
Secretary of the AICC in 1998. In 1997 Mukherjee was voted Outstanding Parliamentarian by
the Indian Parliamentary Group.
After Sonia Gandhi reluctantly agreed to join politics, Mukherjee was one of her mentors,
guiding her through difficult situations with examples of how her mother-in-law, Indira
Gandhi would have done things. His talents were on display during the negotiations for the
Patent's Amendment Bill in early 2005. The Congress was committed to passing an IP bill, but
their allies in the United Progressive Alliance from the Left front had a long tradition of
opposing some of the monopoly aspects of intellectual property. Pranab Mukherjee, as Defence
Minister, was not formally involved but was roped in for his negotiation skills. He drew on
many old alliances including the CPI-M leader Jyoti Basu (former Chief Minister of West
Bengal), and formed new intermediary positions, which included product patent and little
else. Then he had to convince his own colleagues including commerce minister Kamal Nath, at
one point saying: "An imperfect legislation is better than no legislation." Finally the bill
was approved on 23 March 2005.
India Today wrote that Mukherjee's role in "skillfully pushing through the historic 123
Agreement and treaty with the Nuclear Suppliers Group" may have saved UPA-II government from
the 2008 motion of no confidence.
Mukherjee played a crucial role in steering the Cabinet pre-Lok Sabha elections when Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh underwent a by-pass surgery in 2008–09 by taking additional charges
as chairman of the Cabinet Committee of Political Affairs and Union Minister in Finance
Ministry despite already being Union Minister of External Affairs.
Mukherjee was the recipient of "The Best Administrator in India" award in 2011. Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh commented: "Mr. Mukherjee's knowledge of parliamentary matters was
stupendous. The wide respect he commanded and his long association with the political
leaders across the spectrum had proved invaluable in conducting the parliamentary business."
Mukherjee's political skills and long experience in government have also led him to head a
large number of committees of Ministers in the government, a device that has been employed
to obtain consensus within the members of the governing coalition on contentious issues. At
the time of his resignation on being nominated as the UPA's presidential candidate,
Mukherjee was heading several Groups of Ministers (GoMs) and Empowered Groups of Ministers