It's a packed day as usual for the Finance Minister. He has a series of meetings at North Block till late in the afternoon. Then, Pranab Mukherjee is expected to meet the Prime Minister and resign. He is the UPA's candidate for the post of President of India and is likely to be the next resident of Rashtrapati Bhawan. Speaking to the media outside North Block, he said he would first meet the PM and then resign.
The government seems to have addressed its immediate task at hand - finding a replacement. Sources say it will be Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who will keep the crucial Finance portfolio at a time when the Indian economy is going through one of its most fragile moments. The buzz is that such a step will send out a strong signal of confidence to the global community that the economy is in safe hands.
There has been a clamour from many quarters for a change in the Finance Ministry, Mr Mukherjee having faced flak for several decisions where politics seemed to overwhelm economic imperatives. The government has to shake off the policy paralysis tag, urgently stem the slide of the Rupee, get the fundamentals of the economy to look up and get back investor confidence. A despondent India Inc has sent repeated SOS' for some tough decisions.
It is the Congress's task of finding a replacement for that is even more difficult. Pranab Mukherjee is the Leader of the Lok Sabha. To that role he has brought over 40 years of experience as a Parliamentarian. What has set him apart also is his excellent rapport with both allied parties and the opposition. The Congress now has to find a leader with sagacity and knowledge to match Mr Mukherjee's and for that person to be able to build consensus to push legislation through, with the Congress working with tenuous numbers in both Houses.
The BJP is watching and believes a replacement will be hard to find. Senior leader and Lok Sabha MP Yashwant Sinha said, "When I look at the list of front benchers of the Congress party I find that those in the Rajya Sabha or in the Lok Sabha have their own problems. I will not take names, you know them but they have not been great in the Lok Sabha and have run into problems. So you know the person who can soothe nerves should be appointed. Pranab Mukherjee also used to lose his temper at times, but after that on every occasion he would stand up in the house and apologize. Now, you need a consensus builder as the leader of the house, you do not need a partisan person who is out to arrogantly to assert his own authority. The people, who I see in the Congress today, are all a bunch of arrogant people who are not particularly popular in the Lok Sabha."
Since the UPA came to power in 2004, Mr Mukherjee has been head of 80 committees, out of the 183 set up.
Then, the party also needs to fill the less official but equally crucial position of chief trouble-shooter. Pranab Mukherjee's replacement will have a hard act to follow - parachute into war-zones to placate difficult allies, talk a tough Opposition into acquiescence on many matters and find solutions to internal party crises.
His party bid him farewell yesterday at a CWC meeting where Congress president Sonia Gandhi praised his service to the party for over four decades. Mr Mukherjee will file his nomination soon. The veteran leader's chances of becoming President are bright - apart from the UPA and friends, opposition parties like the CPM, Shiv Sena and JD(U) have said they support him. His main opponent is Purno Sangma, who is supported by a majority of the BJP-ruled NDA, and parties like J Jayalalithaa's AIADMK and Naveen Patnaik's BJD.
UPA ally Mamata Banerjee is yet to endorse Mr Mukherjee's candidacy.