President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday probably gave enough hints that he may not be in the race for another term in Rashtrapati Bhavan. “I have exactly two months to go. July 25, a new President will assume office. I am sending back officials who have worked with me, back to their ministries and departments. One has gone to the Commerce Ministry, two to the Ministry of External Affairs,” he said.
The President was speaking at a farewell tea organised for the media by President’s Secretary Omita Paul for his Press Secretary Venu Rajamony, a career diplomat who has been appointed the Ambassador to The Netherlands. Rajamony will assume his new office in The Hague early next month.
Mukherjee’s remarks assume significance in the context of the ongoing hectic political activities centred around a candidate for the President’s election slated in July. The Congress-led Opposition has given enough indications that it will not be averse to a second term for Mukherjee if the government is acceptable to it. But the ruling dispensation has not given any hints about who it has in mind for the top post.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi is hosting a lunch for Opposition leaders here on Friday as part of efforts to arrive at a consensus over the Opposition candidate. Trinamool Congress, whose leader Mamata Banerjee has also been invited for the lunch and has met Gandhi recently, is known to be okay with another term for Mukherjee.
In his remarks, Mukherjee said after a hectic political life he had been wondering whether he would fit into the President’s post where the incumbent has to work under Constitutional rules. In her speech, Paul described Rajamony as an excellent communicator and complimented him for a good job of putting across the President and Rashtrapati Bhavan activities to the people through the media.
Senior journalist Sachidananda Murthy praised Rajamony’s role in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, saying he broke new grounds. Rajamony had also contributed to making the Rashtrapati Bhavan library one of the best in the city.
Thanking the President for the opportunity provided to him, Rajamony said he had worked with Mukherjee for two years in the Finance Ministry before his election as President and nearly five years in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and that had given him wonderful insight into Mukherjee as a public functionary, who the outside world called a “walking encylopedia”.