After a thumping victory in the presidential poll to become the 13th president of India, Pranab Mukherjee today thanked all the political parties for their support and said he did not harbour any ill will against those who had made allegations about the presidential poll. He also spoke about his roots in West Bengal, the Afzal Guru mercy petition and what he intends to do once he becomes president.
Here are some of best bits of the next president’s exclusive interview with Sagarika Ghose of CNN-IBN
On Winning the Presidential Poll
Mukherjee thanked all political parties, particularly those that are not part of the UPA, for their support.
“I feel satisfied and I am particularly happy that those who had committed among the political parties that do not belong to our formation; some of them promised their support to me ensured that every member of their electoral college voted for me,” Mukherjee said, adding that it normally does not happen.
“I consider it a reward for my long stay in public life,” he said.
Allegations of corruption and inducing political allies
“I think this should have been avoided. None of them are substantially correct…I have kept them behind. I have no hard feelings towards nobody,” Mukherjee said.
Presidential poll opponent PA Sangma had alleged the UPA government had induced political parties to back Mukherjee while anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare had alleged he was corrupt.
The veteran statesman said that he will aspire to be everyone’s president.
“The moment the returning officer declared the result of the presidential poll, I am everybody’s president,” he said.
Polarised politics in India
“Sometimes polarisation takes place but it should be on issues,” Mukherjee said.
Pointing out that in the 1970s as well the politics of the nation was centred around the anti-Congress sentiment and all political parties were feeding off it, Mukherjee said he had thought that it was not a good thing.
“Being anti something should not be the anchor of political argument..Issues should be debated. That need not lead to polarisastion which will generate hate,” Mukherjee said adding that this kind of politics bothered him.
“I always advised that it should not be there,” he said.
Mamata Banerjee‘s snub when he visited Kolkata hurt?
“Let us forget about it. She is very nice. I have invited her to the swearing in. I hope she will come,” Mukherjee said.
Family and roots in West Bengal
Mukherjee said that when he filed his nomination papers for the presidential poll the image of his mother had flashed before his eyes because of her concern for how much work he had to do.
“I wondered what would have been her comment when I am going to be the president,” he said.
Speaking about an incident in 1982 when he became the Finance Minister in 1982 and living with his family, Mukherjee said,”Her first comment was that my work will increase. She would have thought that my work would have increased greatly now.”
He said he had been a mischievous child and his mother had given him a good deal of thrashing for all the troubles he had given her.
Pointing out he had not lost touch with his roots in West Bengal, Mukherjee said,”My roots are still there and I get back to it. Most of the time I go to my village during Durga puja”
A regional leader of a national leader
While Mukherjee did not deny that his political roots were in West Bengal, he said he had always had a national approach towards politics.
“Of course my politics began in the state, in the regional parties. But when I came to Parliament my active political life began….I always used to think not from state perspective or regional perspective and am an ardent advocate of national politics. My approach has always been national,” he said.
The presence of many old freedom fighters in Parliament also helped mould a more national perspective of politics, Mukherjee said.
Role and pet projects for the future
“I have not yet defined my role but I will have to define it as situation unfolds, Mukherjee said, refusing to comment on any particular cause that he planned to endorse during his presidential term.
On rejecting Afzal Guru’s mercy petition
Ever the diplomat, Mukherjee said, “I cannot share these things until I assume the office.”