Bangalore: With Pranab Mukherjee, the first Bengali to adorn the exalted seat of the Indian President, the Bengali community in Bangalore is happy as well as proud. It is a special moment not only for Bengalis in Kolkata, but also the five lakh-plus strong Bengali population in the city. It is the first time in 65 years after independence that a Bengali is going to be the occupant of Raisina Hill. In conversation with City Express, Bengalis in the city shed some light on their expectations from Pranab Mukherjee.
When we asked well-known theatre personality Ranjon Ghoshal if this is the biggest moment as a Bengali, he said, “Though I am proud of my Bengali ancestry, I prefer to be called a Bangalorean first. I want to look at democracy in totality and I have had enough of caste-based politics. But yes, it is a proud moment for each one of us.” He adds, “But, the post of a president is a decorative post. Pranab deserves more than this and he should have been the Prime Minister which has more power and responsibility. I don’t know why he himself was so eager to become the president.” President of the Bengali Association and a business journalist, Dilip Maitra says, “It is a very happy moment. I am not sure if it is the biggest moment.”
Aloke Biswas, head of an event management company, says, “Pranab is a seasoned politician. As President, I feel that you need someone who has a detailed knowledge of the country and Pranab with his five decades of experience is the right choice.” MD of MRO Tech and the lifetime member of the Bengali Association in the city, Himadri Nandi said, “He is the first Bengali President. And he should do a good job as President as he can influence the Prime Minister to bring in a lot of innovation in the country.”
Can Pranab overtake Kalam as the People’s President?
Many felt that though Kalam was the ‘People’s President’, Pranab needs to be given a chance. “Kalam had a different viewpoint altogether. He concentrated on education and technology. Kalam was from a small village and Pranab on the other hand, comes from a larger and bigger background. If he manages not to become senile, he can become one of the best presidents after Dr Rajendra Prasad,” Ranjon said with a laugh.
Dilip, who has been closely watching Pranab for many years now, says, “Kalam was a stalwart. He was popular and he had a child-like aura. Comparison won’t be fair. Pranab has come after a very strong political career and he understands the compulsions of politics. With his experience and knowledge, he will definitely be able to provide direction to the country.”Aloke echoed the same sentiment when he said, “Kalam is someone who is admired by everyone in the country. He was not a political person whereas Pranab is stamped as a politician. Maybe over the years, Pranab should be able to achieve Kalam’s popularity.”
Did he miss the PM bus?
When we asked people if they thought Pranab missed the chance to become the Prime Minister, Aloke said, “Surely, he did.” Ranjon though has a strong opinion on the same. He says,“I am surprised that Pranab didn’t understand that he was being sidelined. He has made way for Rahul Gandhi and it is done in a very shameless manner by the Congress. Pranab is still a very active and senior most Congressman who deserved to be the PM. Or maybe Pranab just swallowed his pride and decided to take whatever he got.” Dilip feels that it was a big mistake on Congress’s part to take him out of active politics. He says, “Very few could match Pranab in terms of political standing. I am sure he missed the PM bus. He would have been a good PM, if he was given a chance.
What makes Pranab stand out?
Ranjon says, “Pranab is an encyclopedia on Indian politics. Pranab has this distinctive quality of making his point clear without being overpowering. He can possibly bring in a new dimension to this post. Without being political about his views, he can say what is right and wrong.” Dilip says, “Pranab can make his presence felt. As a politician and executive of the government, he has a world of knowledge. Kalam wasn’t close to the real economy. So, he has a unique privilege.”Aloke too feels that Pranab will be a neutral person and he will be unbiased, since he won’t be tied up by any party doctrine.
Does the Bengali Association have any plans of inviting him to Bangalore?
Bengali Association, which had invited former president Abdul Kalam for its Silver Jubilee, would definitely want to invite Pranab Mukherjee. Ranjon says, “Though I am not an active member, I am sure the Association will invite Pranab and he will be in the city very soon. He will definitely address the community here. I have also invited Kalam several times in the past. It’s quite difficult to get the dates from the President’s office.”
Aloke, also an active member of the Jadavpur University Alumni Association, said, “We are contemplating to felicitate Dadasaheb Phalke award winner, Soumitra Chaterjee, Manna Dey on August 5. I would like to propose the idea that even Pranab Mukherjee should be felicitated on the occasion.”