As countdown starts, Pranab works a punishing schedule in last 72 hours

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Pranab

The days are packed with meetings with ministers, MLAs from various states, MPs and people who Mukherjee has worked with through his long political career, and who that want to bid him goodbye at the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan.

PRESIDENT PRANAB Mukherjee has always been a workaholic, and his last 72 hours in office —with no less than 25 engagements, including three formal dinners —are a testimony to how punishing a schedule the 82-year-old outgoing President has maintained during his five years in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

There are, of course, the official ceremonial farewells: a dinner by the chiefs of staff held on Friday, a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mukherjee’s honour at Hyderabad House on Saturday, a farewell tea ceremony in the Central Hall of Parliament on Sunday and, finally, on Monday, the last night of Mukherjee’s tenure, he will host a dinner for the council of ministers.

The days are packed with meetings with ministers, MLAs from various states, MPs and people who Mukherjee has worked with through his long political career, and who that want to bid him goodbye at the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan. In fact, such is the flurry of visitors these last few days that on Thursday a group of nine people put the President’s security detail in a bit of a tizzy, as ordinary visitors are usually allowed in only in groups of eight.

Most officers in the President’s Secretariat, meanwhile, are headed out as their terms were co-terminus with the President. Additional secretary Thomas Mathew will join the Pranab Mukherjee Foundation, and the all-powerful secretary to the President, Omita Paul, may not take up another assignment right away and stay in Dehradun for a while. Her husband K K Paul is the Governor of Uttarakhand.

Major General Anil Khosla, the military secretary to the President, will continue for a few months. Only a handful of officials from the present retinue — a private secretary, an additional private secretary (Mukherjee’s long time associate Pradyot Guha), a personal assistant, two attendants, one driver and one physician on call will comprise Mukherjee’s staff after he demits office.

The flurry of farewell requests — meetings started a month ago and not all could be accommodated — mean there is a spillover, and the staff is now busy tying up for meetings after retirement, especially for requests of a non-official nature.

On Saturday, NDA’s Vice President nominee and former Union minister Venkaiah Naidu met him, as did Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Delhi University vice-chancellor Yogesh Tyagi has also met him.

Packed in this busy schedule also are preparations for his final address to the nation — to be broadcast on Monday evening.

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