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President Mukherjee leaves New Zealand on Monday 2 May

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Auckland (Syed Mujeeb) New Zealand will soon be playing host to the Honourable President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee. Although no official statement has been issued, we have learnt from reliable sources that this could be a reality in the very near future. This will be the first time that New Zealand will host a Head of the State visit from India.

Visits of Heads of States can be very exciting albeit very meticulously planned affairs. Presidential visits will normally be preceded by an advance party that looks into all the arrangements that often include senior officials looking into security, protocol and other details such as accommodation and local logistics. The visit itself could include a ceremonial welcome and introduction to the armed forces. There will normally be a State Banquet, and in our case, this is likely to be held at the Government House with full state honours. There may be some community engagements, engagements with the media and some press releases issued. These are, of course, speculations at this stage awaiting official confirmations. There seems to have been some activity that resembles the makings of a state visit and we await official confirmation on this from the High Commission of India.

In the meanwhile, we thought it may be quite timely to get to know the President of India a little more.

Born on December 11, 1935, in West Bengal, India, Pranab Kumar Mukherjee is the 13th and the current president of India. He assumed office on July 25, 2012. Previously he was the Finance Minister of India and a leader of the ongoing 15th LokSabha. Pranab Mukherjee is also a senior member of the Cabinet Committees on Economic Affairs, Parliamentary Affairs, Infrastructure, Political Affairs, Security, Prices, World Trade Organization, Unique Identification Authority of India and the Congress Working Committee.

Pranab Mukherjee is the son of Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee, a freedom fighter, a member of AICC and West Bengal Legislative Council, from 1952 to 1964. He studied politics, history and law at Calcutta University and worked as a teacher, a journalist and a lawyer before joining politics in 1969. Apart from work, Mr Mukherjee likes to read, listen to music and enjoys gardening. He is married to Suvra Mukherjee (1957–August 18, 2015) and has two sons and a daughter, Abhijit, Indrajit and Sharmistha.

His elder son, Abhijit Mukherjee, is a Congress MP from Jangipur, West Bengal. He was elected in the by-polls held after his father vacated the seat. Before his election, Abhijit was an MLA from Nalhati in Birbhum.

His daughter Sharmistha is a Kathak dancer and politician of the Indian National Congress.

In 1969, Pranab Mukherjee started his parliamentary career as a member of Rajya Sabha from the Congress party. He was re-elected in the following years: 1975, 1981, 1993 and 1999. From a series of cabinet posts, he rose to become the Finance Minister of India from 1982 to 1984. His tenure was well known for India not withdrawing the last billion instalment of an IMF loan. For a brief period he was pushed out of the Congress party, and during this phase, he shaped his political party called Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress. However, later on, he merged it back with Congress party in 1989.

His political career was revived when he was appointed as deputy chairman of the planning commission and subsequently as a union cabinet minister. For the first time from 1995 to 1996 in Rao’s cabinet, he served as External Affairs Minister and was voted Outstanding Parliamentarian in 1997. Since 1985, he was the President of the West Bengal state unit of Congress, but later in July 2010 he resigned due to work-load.

Pranab Mukherjee won the LokSabha elections for the first time from Jangipur and was made the Leader of the House in the LokSabha. He heads the Congress Parliamentary Party and the Congress Legislative Party which constitutes of all the Congress MPs and MLAs in the country and also has the merit of being a Minister with various high profile Ministries.

He played an important role in directing the Cabinet pre-LokSabha elections when the Prime Minister underwent by-pass surgery by taking further charge as chairman of the Cabinet Committee of Political Affairs and Union Minister in Finance Ministry despite already being the Union Minister of External Affairs.

Mr Mukherjee is a member of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund of the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank. On 10 October 2008, Pranab Mukherjee and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed the Section 123 Agreement.

Within party social circles Mr Mukherjee is a well-respected individual, he has a status of a politician with an extraordinary memory and a distinct survival instinct. When Sonia Gandhi unwillingly agreed to join politics, he was one of her important counsellors, helping her through difficult circumstances. His loyalty and proficiency helped him achieve the position of Minister of Defense in 2004.

Pranab Mukherjee was nominated as an eligible presidential candidate for the President of India from UPA on June 15, 2012. Around 81 other candidates had filed nominations but the Election Commission rejected them all except P.A. Sangma and Pranab Mukherjee. The elections took place in July 2012 after the five states scheduled elections and the results were announced on 23rd July 2012. The veteran Pranab Mukherjee became the President of India after four decades of political life and is the first Bengali to assume the post. He won the presidential poll by a huge margin and was officially sworn in by the Chief Justice of India on 25th July 2012.

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