President Pranab Mukherjee gave a touching farewell to ‘gentleman’ Manmohan Singh, recalling their four-decade-long association from Singh’s bureaucracy days till he became the prime minister.
At an emotionally charged banquet on Saturday night, Mukherjee said it was not customary to speak on such occasions but “I will make a departure from normal practice because the gentleman to whom I am saying goodbye has worked with me for over four decades.” Mukherjee said he had met Singh when he became a junior finance minister in 1974 and was happy with his depth of knowledge in crucial economic issues.
As the audience comprising outgoing cabinet ministers and Leader of Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj were listening with rapt attention, Mukherjee lauded Singh and said ‘the country will remember your contribution during 1991 when you took a new path in economic reforms. In 1990s, there was a new phase of development when India made a breakthrough in growth rate’.
Mukherjee, who had signed the appointment of Singh as the governor of the Reserve Bank of India in 1980s, said Singh had made a mark and the country will remember it and termed himself as ‘fortunate’ in receiving advice and support during discharge of various responsibilities.
Singh acknowledged the President’s gesture by saying ‘forgive me if I become emotional on this occasion’ and recalled his long association with Mukherjee. “I worked with him as member secretary in the Planning Commission and then as RBI Governor. The President was a valued colleague in United Progressive Alliance who used to shoulder burden as most experienced and senior minister.”
Mukherjee’s experience and support for reforms was of ‘inestimable value’, the outgoing PM said, adding, “The President’s wisdom, experience and knowledge is a great national asset. These feelings have come out of my heart.”
Guests were treated members to Bengali delicacies like sorsey paturi fish and Punjabi kadi pakora. For the non-vegetarians, besides the fish, there was Mukherjee’s favourite --galoti kebabs, murgh nihari and other assortment of chicken and fish dishes. For the vegetarians, potol dorma (stuffed pointed gourd), anjeer (fig) ke koftey’, Punjabi paneer pasanda dishes were laid out.
Image: President Pranab Mukherjee greets Manmohan Singh at his farewell dinner at Rashtrapati Bhawan. Photograph: Rashtrapati Bhawan.