Updated: Sep 1, 2020
Written by : Tanush Sawhney
Edited by: Arsh Kulshreshtha
Pranab Da was a multifaceted personality, a scion of a flourishing public life, and a man who we should all take some lessons from. He was the son of a freedom fighter and spent the formative years of his life in Bengal. From an erstwhile journalist, he turned to politics, helping in the independent campaign of a stalwart of those ages, VK Krishna Menon. Indira Gandhi saw his talent for the trade and took him into the Indian National Congress.
He rose quickly within its ranks becoming a trusted lieutenant of Mrs.Gandhi, a Rajya Sabha MP within his first years and then the Finance Minister of the Nation during a later time. After the comeback of Congress and the mournful assassination of Mrs Gandhi, he was tipped to be the next PM but the dynasty followed in and Rajiv Gandhi became the next Prime Minister of our nation. Following that the graph of his illustrious career was one like the relation between Potential Difference and Current in a circuit, a straight line going up, inclined to the x-axis, with him becoming the Foreign, Defence and Finance Minister again and contending for the post of the PM once UPA-I came to power in its early days. He played a pivotal role in the Indo-US Nuclear Agreement as External Affairs Minister and was responsible for key tax reforms and accountability measures that we hold today, encouraging NRIs to invest in the Indian economy 10 years before liberalisation. He was one of the prime troubleshooters for the Congress Party, more often than not being the glue that held even uneasy coalitions together, Later Pranab Da became President as a result of a celebrated career and some skilful political manoeuvring but there's so much more to him.
Pranab Da was a true believer in this concept we call democracy. He once said,
"(The) Soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance. This plurality came with the assimilation of ideas over centuries. Secularism is a matter of faith for us."
A scholar par excellence, unlike most he went into practice beyond his words, attending a conference of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an organisation with beliefs almost entirely clashing with his political beliefs. Though criticised by many of his party and his own daughter, his gesture stands out to me. He decided to accept all factions of the nation, whatever they might portray because after all, they are part of the nation. He believed in the power of dialogue. That spoke of his commitment to democracy more than anything else to me. He possessed the rare ability to accept everyone's opinions and beliefs to help bring them together for the sake of the country. His insight goes beyond his actions and we may never know what could have happened had he been in a different place or had people reacted differently to him.
I'd bring up one last point over here. It wasn't like Pranab Da didn't feel there were problems with the grand old party or actions that were taken or anything else. After Rajiv Gandhi's takeover of Congress, he formed the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress in West Bengal. He showed his dissidence and made sure his point of view was seen. When he felt he had been heard, and the changes made, his party merged
with the INC in 1989. To sum up, Pranab Da was one of the greater politicians and public servants of the times, and in my opinion, a man of stellar confidence in the ideas of our Constitution. He had been a dissident and he had been part of the establishment too, sitting on both sides of the carpet in both the Lok Sabha and the party. Most of all, he had the capacity to treat opposing views with respect, an oft missed quality and a mark of a great man.
He was a man of many talents who generally played the right card. On this sorrowful day, let us remember his good deeds. Let us be grateful for them, for him. Many will tell his story differently, from different perspectives. But this is the way we wish and hope to remember him, as our own. A man that went across these illusionary party lines. Men like him don't come along often and we were extremely lucky to have him. He reminds us that hope and faith in a country is a much more powerful tool than we think it may be and let's remember that and work towards it for when we come back from the COVID 19 pandemic let it be to a better world we make. Rest in Peace, Pranab Da, we'll try not to let you down!
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