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Pranab Mukherjee made the Rashtrapati Bhavan people-friendly, says daughter Sharmistha on her father’s final book launch

The recently-published The Presidential Years: 2012–2017 is the former late President’s last book

by Anindita Acharya

Kolkata, Feb. 27: Do you know what was the first thing former President late Pranab Mukherjee did when he made the Rashtrapati Bhavan his home? The 13th President of India documented all the art works and renovated the library and created a museum for Rashtrapati Bhavan. 

“He documented all the art works and renovated the priceless library and created a museum for Rashtrapati Bhavan by collaborating with curators, historians, art historians, librarians – restoring the place to its full glory,” said his daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee. 

Recently, the latest book of the former President, The Presidential Years 2012-17 was launched at a virtual session of Kitaab by panelists British politician and economist, Lord Meghnad Desai, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, economist and former top civil servant, and Sharmistha. The event was organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation. 

Down the memory lane 

Sharmistha said it was an honour and opportunity to be the 13th family at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Recounting her experience as a resident of the iconic Rashtrapati Bhavan with her father Pranab Mukherjee, Sharmistha said, “My father’s love and passion was history and for him every corner of Rashtrapati Bhavan was full of history, every stone told a story. So, one of the first things he did was to renovate the priceless library and created a museum for Rashtrapati Bhavan by collaborating with curators, art historians and librarians. It was a great opportunity to relive the rich history of the place.”

Sharmistha recalled how her father made the Rashtrapati Bhavan people-friendly. “He also opened up a large section of the Bhavan to the people of India and made it people-friendly by starting the artist-residential centre where he would invite the scholars, the artistes, the writers, the young innovators and scientists so that they could also come and become a part of the history – learn, understand and appreciate the place,” she said.

Mercy petitions 

The recently-published The Presidential Years: 2012–2017 is the former late President’s final book in the four-book series namely The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years, The Turbulent Years: 1980 – 1996 and The Coalition Years: 1996 – 2012. He had, in all, penned ten books covering economy, politics, political history and personal memoirs. The 84-years-old President passed away on August 31, 2020. 

When asked about mercy petitions, Sharmistha said that her father could not sleep at night. “On mercy petitions, the President is the last hope. The modern justice system is more towards reform than punishment. From that perspective, President is the last hope and one signature determines the future of others. My father said he could not sleep at nights… it was a difficult call but he never sat on a decision and felt that if the judicial system had given the decision, he would go with the government,” said the Congress leader. 

Team NewsFile