Had no idea about how President house functioned till I took oath: Pranab Mukherjee

NEW DELHI: President Pranab Mukherjee has said that he had no knowledge about how Rashtrapati Bhavan functioned till he assumed office and had even sent his daughter to the palatial building two days before he took oath to get an idea.

The Rashtrapati Bhavan museum to be made operational on October 2, will give a portrayal of special gifts and treasures housed inside the lofty portals of the British era structure, he said. Mukherjee also gave an insight into the set-up in the President’s House, including Durbar Hall, Ashoka Hall, Banquet Hall, their use for various state events, the Library, one of his favourite places, and the area where the British Viceroys stayed.

“The museum will be made operational on October 2. It will house gifts presented by visiting heads of state, foreign dignitaries like prime ministers, foreign ministers, defence ministers,” Mukherjee said as he thanked eminent Bengali writer Prof Ranjan Banerjee who spent seven days in Rashtrapati Bhavan as part of the ‘In-Residence’ programme initiated by the President. “So far, 140 people, including bright students from IITs, NIITs, innovators, have stayed here as part of the programme,” he said last night.

“Not five, but even 15 years are not enough to peruse the books housed in the Library,” Mukherjee, a voracious reader and an ex-college professor, said. Mukherjee recalled since he came to Delhi for the first time in July 1979 in connection with oath-taking as a Rajya Sabha member and even while having stayed a stone’s throw from Rashtrapati Bhavan for 43 years till he assumed the office, he did not know as to how the President’s House functioned.

“The bedrooms in the area where the Viceroy stayed are so large that one cannot get sleep there. I had gone to Rashtrapati Bhavan a lot many times before I took over in connection with government work, but I did not know how the President’s House functioned and what lay inside.

I had even sent my daughter (Sharmistha) two days before I took oath to get an idea,” he said. Prof Banerjee, who writes on Rabindranath Tagore, 19th century renaissance in Bengal and other litterateurs like Michael Madhusudan Dutta, shared his thoughts on the works of the Nobel Laureate and other writers during the interaction in the presence of the President. Prof Banerjee has at least 30 books to his credit.