Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Media Throng North Block as Pranab Signs Off

-Press Trust of India
NEW DELHI: As Pranab Mukherjee took his last walk through the corridors of cream and red sandstone British- era building that housed the finance ministry, it created a media frenzy that perhaps has no parallel in recent history. Mukherjee's pre-announced day for resigning as the Finance Minister to contest Presidential elections saw hectic activities at North Block since morning itself. Finance ministry officials and well-wishers lined up to wish their beloved 'Dada' well at his next destination in the adjacent building, the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Media too gathered in full strength but the ever obliging Mukherjee told them not to "torture" themselves in "scorching sun" and come back only at 1630 hrs when he would resign. But neither the media nor his well-wishers left the finance ministry premises. As the appointed hour approached, media contingent swelled forcing CISF, which guards the building, to erect temporary rope barriers on the forecourts of the ministry to keep the crowd under control.

With scores of television cameras, backed by OB vans, and media personnel jostling, a podium was put up on the forecourts, perhaps only for the second time in the recent past. The previous occasion when a podium was put up was when Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram made a joint statement on controversy over 2G telecom spectrum allocation. While a smiling Mukherjee greeted the media with folded hands, media personnel too warmly wished him. Some even proposed to hold a formal farewell for 'Dada' but it wasn't immediately known if Mukherjee had accepted the invitation. 

Just before Mukherjee was to leave to submit his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Minister of State for Finance Namo Narain Meena went to say final goodbye to the 77-year-old leader, regarded as Congress's most politically savvy veteran, a go-to fixer in moments of crisis who has a seat at the table on virtually every major policy debate. Finance Secretary R S Gujral, Economic Affairs Secretary R Gopalan and Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu were in next to greet Mukherjee.

His personal staff and those associated with his office went in a group before a smiling Mukherjee flanked by Meena and other officials of the finance ministry emerged at exactly 1630 hrs. As Mukherjee look lift to go down from his 1st floor office, forecourts of North Block saw a frenzied rush with cameramen trying to get the best shot while media personnel trying to get as close as possible so as not to miss a byte. Mukherjee, reading from a prepared statement, thanked both finance ministry officials as well as media for support he received during his three-year stay at North Block.

"Members of the media, friends like you, have always reminded me my responsibility most of time through your criticism, sometimes through your appreciation, what I should do as a representative of the people," he said. "I hope these duties you will continue so long I am in public life," he said. Mukherjee did not take questions and drove straight to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence where he tendered his resignation. He would now campaign for the Presidential polls scheduled on July 19. Mukherjee is to file his nomination for the highest post in the country on June 28.

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