A day after former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee filed his nomination, he spoke to NDTV in an exclusive interview on his presidential bid and much more. Here are the highlights of what Mr Mukherjee told NDTV:
- That is the beauty of democracy...that anyone can aspire to reach the highest post.
- Walked five kms each way to school and back as a child in Bengal.
- Barefoot, no shoes. Was tough to negotiate during rainy season.
- I do feel nomination for President has come as appropriate time. Am deeply appreciative of gesture of UPA Chairperson and leaders who offered this post first to me.
- On being liked by politicians from all parties - It is not new to me...there are many political leaders in India whose work has been appreciated...who are loved and respected by cross-sections of parties.
Relationship with Mamata: It was not stormy, she is running a party of her own and parties have compulsions, she understands this better than anyone else. Even today, I understand she has not taken a decision (on who to support) - I appeal to all political parties who have not taken a decision to support me.
- On whether contest is a walkover: I do not take it that way.
- No need for presidential debate. It should take place during prime ministerial candidates during general elections. President of India is not policy-maker or policy-executor. Policies are decided in name of President but by the cabinet.
- On whether he feels he has been overlooked by Congress: Not at all. Most important thing is party has trusted me. Have been an MP for four decades, minister for 22 years.
- Indira Gandhi was my mentor. The way she taught me, she changed me. In response to a question in Lok Sabha, I said "an emphatic No." She told me not to be confrontationist, asked me to be open. Sometimes I forget her lesson. She gave me the opportunity. I became Finance minister at the age of 43. She allowed me to preside over the cabinet in her absence.
- Only 542 MPs get this opportunity (to participate in Lok Sabha). It is a great honour.
- Congress party has lot of talent...there is no dearth of talent...
- Deciding high or low points of careers is the job of others. This is not my job. I am not a political analyst. I am a political activist.
- Last 3-4 years were very tough years...but there is no justification for losing my temper.
- On earlier statements on wanting to quit active politics in 2014: The 2009 Lok Sabha elections, I found it was a strain on me. And I thought in 2014, at time of next general elections, I will be 79. I entered Parliament at age of 34. I felt 79 is a good time for me to retire. I do feel older generations must make way for newer generations...to ensure party is revitalised. The oldest party must have younger leaders.