As the senior most minister, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is entitled to large government bungalow, bigger than where he stays now: 13, Talkatora Road.
It’s only a type-7 house when he is entitled to a type-8 one. Unlike other Cabinet ministers who got big bungalows with lovely garden, Mukherjee has refused all suggestions, including from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to shift to a bigger house.
His argument is that No 13 is a lucky number for him, and this house, which has been his home in Delhi for 18 years, has brought good fortune. This house has seen him become Leader of Lok Sabha after being elected to the House for the first time in 2004. He had been a member of the Rajya Sabha since 1969.
In fact, his room in Parliament House is also no 13.
A few days ago, Mukherjee hosted a lunch for his journalist friends but not in his Talkatora Road residence but at 31, Aurangzeb Road bungalow, which was occupied by former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat till his death in May 2010. That led to guests asking Mukherjee whether he was going to shift to this new place, which looked spruced up.
Aides of Mukherjee dismissed the talk, saying he’d not leave the Talkatora Road house–unless he was going to move to the magnificent Rashtrapati Bhavan atop the Raisina Hills as the next President. But if you ask Mukherjee about his chances, as some scribes have done, he will tell you that his chances are bleak.
Those who know Mukherjee very closely say that he does not think that Congress president Sonia Gandhi will choose him over Defence Minister A K Antony to occupy that post when President Pratibha Patil retires in July this year.
Mukherjee believes Antony is her trusted nominee, whom she may prefer to have in the Rashtrapati Bhavan when the Lok Sabha polls are held in 2014. The occupant decides who is to be called to take charge as Prime Minister after the elections are over. In case of a number game, Sonia Gandhi would prefer Antony to ensure that her son, Rahul, doesn’t have a problem.
Almost reconciled to his present status as a trouble shooter for the UPA government, Mukherjee,however, is not interested in the second slot, that of Vice President when the term of Hamid Ansari gets over in August this year.
By the way, the grapevine in Delhi is that Ansari is also in the reckoning for President’s slot — since many vice presidents before him have been elevated as President. They include R Venakataraman and K R Narayanan.