The veteran Congress leader had played a key role in the formation of the Telangana state, which was carved out of Andhra Pradesh as India’s 29th state in 2014.
As a key figure in the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Mukherjee was picked by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi to head a three-member sub-committee to go into the Telangana issue in 2004.
Then Union Ministers Dayanidhi Maran and Raghuvansh Prasad Singh were the other members of the panel.
The Telangana issue was included in the common minimum programme of UPA as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) had joined the Congress-led coalition.
Mukherjee, who was then the Defence Minister, held consultations with various parties on the issues of a separate state. He held a series of talks with TRS chief and then Union Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao.
However, the panel could not submit its report due to lack of consensus over the issue. Alleging betrayal by the Congress, the TRS pulled out of the UPA in 2006.
As a member of UPA core committee during the coalition’s second term in power, Mukherjee was part of the key consultations after the Telangana movement was intensified by the TRS.
As Telangana Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy recalled, Mukherjee along with then Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram held a crucial all-party meeting over the Telangana issue on January 5, 2010.
Mukherjee continued to have a connection with Telangana even after he became the President in 2012.
As President, he gave assent to Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2014, paving the way for creation of Telangana state.
“The former President used to say that there was justice in demand for a separate Telangana statehood and he used to offer several useful suggestions to me. Pranab Mukherjee bestowed special praise on me saying that very few leaders have the rare opportunity of seeing the movement launched by them reaching its goal and he said I am privileged to have that rare opportunity and greatness,” Chief Minister Chandrashekhar Rao said in his condolence message.
Citing Mukherjee’s autobiography “The Coalition Years”, he said: “In the book, Pranab Mukherjee also narrated an incident where I emphatically said that I was only interested in Telangana issue but would not care for any portfolio.”
Chandrashekhar Rao’s son and state minister K.T. Rama Rao also recalled that Mukherjee played a key role in formation of the Telangana state.
“Pranab da was the head of the UPA committee on Telangana statehood demand. As the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee had signed the statehood bill and helped realise the dream of millions of Telangana people,” said Rama Rao.