“I am neither a Congress man nor a minister in the government. I have no identity today,” the 77-year-old told Congress MLAs and leaders during his campaign in Odisha.
Mukherjee, who had spent five decades in politics, said he started his career as a small-time party activist helping senior leaders in West Bengal to enroll members.
“I had been a Rajya Sabha member 43 years ago and a minister in Indira Gandhi’s council of ministers 39 years ago. Besides, I have been a member of CWC for long,” he said.
But he had to resign as Finance Minister, from CWC and other posts held by him due to the Presidential elections, he pointed out.
Recalling his childhood days, Mukherjee said he came from a remote village in West Bengal where he had to walk 10 kilometers a day to attend school. “There was nothing for us then. I remember the situation both during summer and rains,” he said.
Mukherjee said his father was a freedom fighter who was jailed several times for participating in the freedom struggle and movements under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi.
Referring to the Food Security Bill, Mukherjee said he remembered the infamous Bengal famine while working on the Bill. “Fifty lakh people died of starvation in those days,” he recalled.
After a long innings in active politics, Mukherjee said he was “humbled” by the offer made to him by Congress president Sonia Gandhi who named him as the Presidential candidate of UPA.
In a choked voice, Mukherjee told the Congress MLAs that If elected to the coveted post, he would not be able to do certain things for the party.
Stating that opposition to his candidature was natural in a democracy, Mukherjee said that in a multi-party system there are 100 ideas and 100 views. “This is the strength of democracy.”
Since 1992, no single party had been able to field presidential candidates and elections to the top post were held four times on the basis of consensus among different political parties. “However, no consensus was possible this time”.