Congress leader and former Union minister, P Chidambaram, described ex-president Pranab Mukherjee - who died today - as a leader with great memory, versatility, adaptability, resilience and the ability to "grasp tricky issues very quickly". In a telephonic interview with NDTV, Mr Chidambaram shared his "bitter and sweet" memories of the Bharat Ratna awardee, including an incident he termed as "a poignant moment".
"There are many memories - some sweet, some bitter - from a political angle. I worked with him very closely from 2004 and 2014... during this period he held a variety of portfolios... I was always struck by his phenomenal memory, his ability to grasp tricky issues very quickly, going to the root of the problem and then finding solutions," Mr Chidambaram said.
He said Mr Mukherjee, despite his vast experience, would value the opinions of others, including his junior leaders.
Mr Chidambaram, who was Mr Mukherjee's cabinet colleague in the two UPA governments, recalled an incident in 1991, when the leader was ignored for a cabinet berth.
"In 1991, he expected to be inducted in Narasimha Rao's (former prime minister) cabinet. I was sitting across the table from him in his office. And then the list was published and he was not there," he reminisced.
"He was as surprised and I was even more surprised. I couldn't solve the mystery why he was not inducted in the cabinet...that one moment was a poignant moment when there was a complete surprise on my face and he was completely stupefied. Why, after he had put in long hours of work in the election campaign, was he not inducted?" he said, adding Mr Mukherjee was obliged with several portfolios later.
Mr Chidambaram defended Mr Mukherjee on his decision to attend an event at the RSS headquarters in 2018.
"He had friends across the aisle. He had friends in many parties. He had maintained those relations in good times and bad times. When he visited the Congress headquarters, as a Congressman, I was disappointed. But technically he had seized to be the president. And when he became the president, he had quit politics. When he visited the RSS headquarters, he was an ex-Congressman and a non-political person. However, I would not have done the same if I was in his position," Mr Chidambaram added.
Pranab Mukherjee, who had tested positive for coronavirus, had been in coma after a brain surgery earlier this month. He died today, aged 84. The Centre has announced seven days of state mourning for the former President.