The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On call, for all troubles

New Delhi, Aug. 29: Come hell or high water, the Congress high command knows it can always depend on one man to come to the aid of the party.

So when the leadership shot down foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee’s name for President a couple of months ago because he was “indispensable’’ and could not be allowed to go into semi-retirement, no one realised just how true that would turn out to be.

In the wake of the political crisis over the Indo-US nuclear deal gripping the government, Mukherjee has become the one man everyone is turning to.

Seconded by both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to find a way out of the crisis with the Left parties, Mukherjee has patiently met every top leader from the CPM CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc over the past three days.

And when a committee is set up to probe the whys and wherefores of the 123 Agreement and the Hyde Act, Mukherjee will be its likely head.

By night, the Congress party’s political managers, Ahmed Patel and defence minister A.K. Antony, land up at 13 Talkatora Road, the small white nondescript bungalow in which Mukherjee has lived for years. (He is entitled to a much fancier house, of course, according to his stature, but he refuses to leave this place.)

Mukherjee’s aides say Patel and Antony are around almost till midnight. Both know they cannot find a solution to the crisis without Mukherjee’s views.

“There are no holidays for us. We work on Onam and on Raksha Bandhan. We work during the day when Parliament is in session, in the ministry of external affairs and outside. We also work on weekends,’’ an aide of Mukherjee said.

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