Media hails new India president Pranab Mukherjee

Supporters throw petals on Pranab Mukherjee in Delhi on 22 July 2012 Pranab Mukherjee's win has not come as a surprise

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India's media has applauded the election of former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee as the new president.

The newspapers, however, said the ruling Congress party-led government would miss Mr Mukherjee's political acumen and administrative skills.

The position is largely ceremonial but he could help determine who forms the next government after elections in 2014 if there is no clear winner.

Mr Mukherjee's term runs for five years.

He replaces Pratibha Patil, who was India's first woman president.

"The [ruling] Congress [government] stands to lose the most from Mr Mukherjee's elevation," said Hindustan Times.

Pointing out that the president-elect was heading 24 of the 39 ministerial groups of the government for decision making, the newspaper said Mr Mukherjee's inputs had been vital for the government.

"The party will now have to hunt for a fire-fighter who can match Mr Mukherjee's acceptance across the political spectrum," the newspaper said.

'Misnomer'

It added that Mr Mukherjee's presence in the presidential palace would be "particularly memorable if he can, within the limits imposed by constitutional propriety, soothe our fractious coalition-era politics".

The Indian Express said Mr Mukherjee's win meant that the government "loses it most experienced minister, and the nation gains a president with immense political stature".

The newspaper said the "aloof and apolitical president" had always been "something of a misnomer" in India.

"Under Mr Mukherjee's watch, it is just as well that the myth is poised for a burial".

PRANAB MUKHERJEE

The veteran Congress party leader Pranab Mukherjee was born in 1935 in West Bengal.

He was a teacher, a journalist and a lawyer before being elected in 1969 to the upper house of parliament. He has served as finance, foreign and defence minister, and has held other influential positions in the government.

He fell out with the Congress leaders in 1986 and started his own party, but returned to the party fold two years later. He has served on the boards of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The Indian Express said Mr Mukherjee would face "manifold challenges, and not just in government formation in 2014, if no party or alliance gets a majority".

The 2014 elections are not expected to produce a clear result. In that case, the president will play a decisive role.

The Hindu said Mr Mukherjee would be a "knowledgeable and pragmatic president who is well-versed in constitutional procedures and practices".

"As president of India, Mr Mukherjee would know how to fall back on traditions and conventions when necessary and when to look for fresh ways to break new impasses or constitutional deadlocks."

The Asian Age said Mr Mukherjee would "dignify the office he is about to step into and leave little room for narrow partisanship".

The newspaper said the president-elect was a man of "vast political experience and administrative acumen... he is also widely admired for his restraint, sense of propriety and balance, and understanding of realpolitik".

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