Barely three weeks before the completion of President Pranab Mukherjee's remarkable tenure, a rare insight into his relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi shone through during the release of the book "President Pranab Mukheree — A Statesman" here on Sunday evening, with President Mukherjee candidly revealing that their close equation remained unaffected despite "divergence of views" on many occasions.
This 340-page photo essay ~ published by The Statesman ~ was released by the PM at a glittering function at the chandeliered "yellow drawing room" of Rashtrapati Bhavan.
PM Modi presented the first copy of the book to President Mukherjee. The book has been photographed and curated by Varun Joshi.
Speaking on the occasion, PM Modi offered a gushing tribute to Mukherjee's distinguished personality and presidency, asserting that "I am fortunate to have worked with President Mukherjee during the three years of my prime ministership".
Disclosing that President Mukherjee ~ whom he frequently addressed fondly as "Pranab da" ~ did his hand-holding to help him settle down in the rough and tumble of New Delhi, PM Modi became emotional, with his voice even breaking down as he said, "Like a father, he used to advise me…there has not been a single meeting that we had during the last three years when he did not counsel me, showing his humane side. In the midst of my punishing UP poll campaign, he used to exhort me to relax and not let merely work engulf my life."
Addressing the gathering, President Mukherjee, while thanking PM Modi, made some remarkable confessions about their working equation. "We have worked with close cooperation over the last three years, there have been divergences of views, but we have kept them to ourselves and not let them affect our relations ~ the relationship between the titular Head of State and the Head of the Government."
Pointing to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley ~ who was present in the audience along with a slew of Union ministers, MPs, diplomats, judges and media personalities ~ President Mukherjee said : "Finance Minister knows how many times I'd summoned him to raise queries and seek clarifications (on various matters), and he being an accomplished lawyer always convinced me about them. The functioning of the government was thus never disrupted."
Both the leaders praised The Statesman for compiling a striking pictorial compendium on the 81-year-old Mukherjee's presidency and his multiple roles while being in the country's highest constitutional office as the 13th Head of State. They especially highlighted the newspaper's effort to curate an enduring historical saga in images and text for the generations to come.