Former President Pranab Mukherjee was once a stickler for protocol. He stuck to not sidestepping procedure even supposing it meant turning down special requests, which could, in diplomatic subtext, be read as snubs. As a result, there was once a kerfuffle when he refused to visit the then Prime Minister of Turkey Tayyip Erdoğan all through a visit to Istanbul in 2013.
Erdogan had suggested that Mukherjee call on him instead of the opposite direction round.
“He was once conscious of the truth that he was once the President of India and the etiquette that needed to be shown to his position could not be compromised. So when a senior officer of the Indian Foreign Service suggested that Mukherjee will have to put aside protocol and visit the PM; he was once livid. He refused to call on the PM and asserted that the protocol of a PM calling on a President be followed. The officer got a vinaigrette down for suggesting in a different way,” reminisce about Maj Gen Anil Khosla who served as Mukherjee’s military secretary.
Mukherjee’s visit to Turkey came after a 15-year long hiatus, where he held long meetings on India-Turkey relations. In 2017, he hosted Erdogan, now the President of Turkey at Rashtrapati Bhavan and hosted the customary official dinner referred to as the Banquet in honour of the visiting President and First Lady Emine Erdoğan.
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This was once not the only time a foreign dignitary was once provided a taste of the renowned Mukherjee mood. In 2015, when the name of the game service, known for its unmoving and impenetrable security cover for the USA President, arrived at Rashtrapati Bhavan with a call for participation for Mukherjee to enroll in United States President Barack Obama in his ‘beast’ (the USA presidential state car) , the answer was once an emphatic and spontaneous “no”. Obama was once the guest of honour at the Republic Day parade and, as per tradition, the two dignitaries were expected to show up for the regalia in the President’s car.
While the USA authorities insisted on Obama travelling in the beast that was once specially flown to India; Mukherjee opted for the safety of his own Limousine.
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“Eventually after a bit of backward and forward, the two leaders travelled in separate cars and Obama reached a couple of minutes ahead of the President,” Khosla reminisce about.
The absolute adherence to protocol, to laid-down strictures was once hallmark Mukherjee, said former bureaucrat Thomas Mathew, who served as his extra secretary.
Turning down mercy petitions had fetched the former President some unfavourable and uncharitable remarks by the commentariat. Those objected to the death penalty, in specific, made snide remarks on social media. After he turned down the mercy pleas of Ajmal Kasab, accused of carrying out the attack of 26/1 and Afzal Guru, who was once sentenced for his role in the 2001 Parliament attack, they alleged that the President had turned the Mughal Garden into a hanging garden.
“He wanted to be type and he wanted to make certain that there is justice. Whether there were issues where he felt that the case had been regarded as in depth by the Supreme Court, he did not need to interfere. But in cases where he felt that the Supreme Court had looked at it legally and human accentuating factors had not been regarded as; and on account of the authority vested in him to imagine such cases by the Charter, even after the Supreme Court had provided its decision, he gave it to the home ministry for further consideration,” Mathew said.
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Throughout his presidency, Mukherjee cleared petitions that had been pending from 2000; rejecting 28 of the 32 mercy petitions.
“While officials or politicians not knowing their history or facts would rile him; what upset him the most was once not having the ability to total his walk. He used to set a target to cover a sure distance in a particular time period, and even supposing he missed it by a minute, he would be in a foul temper for slowing down,” Khosla said.