“As President, he was unquestionably the guardian of the Constitution. He realised that in a democracy there could only be one power centre i.e. elected Government and the Prime Minister. He, therefore, actively associated with two different Governments during his presidency with equal ease,” Jaitley wrote in a Facebook note.
Mukherjee’s term comes to an end on Monday and President-elect Ram Nath Kovind will take oath tomorrow at a ceremony in Raisina Hill.
Describing Mukherjee’s transformation from a senior Minister to a President as “exemplary”, Jaitley said he had won many admirers and his stature grew with each passing day.
Jaitley fondly remembered Mukherjee’s time in the Parliament as a member of the House.
“His natural ability was to rise above partisan arguments. In Parliament, he almost spoke like an amicus curiae – a friend of the House, rather than a party leader. This quality enabled him to evolve a consensus in favour of the argument that he advanced. Very rarely did he lose his cool, but if he did, he was smiling a minute later and making up with his target through some complimentary references,” he wrote.
Jaitley credited Mukherjee for playing a key role in the passage of three important constitution amendments.
“One related to the freezing of seats in the Lok Sabha and the State Legislatures despite demographic changes in several States. The second involved review of the Anti-Defection Law. The third one dealt with limiting the size of the Council of Ministers both in the centre and the States. His Committee expeditiously considered these amendments and improved upon the drafts that the Government had prepared and produced a much better document. He evolved a consensus on all these issues. Even in opposition he was never an obstructionist. He was a product of the parliamentary system and favoured using Parliament for larger National interest.”