Why Pranab Mukherjee was seen as a 'dissenter' in 1984?

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Pranab Mukherjee
Bangalore, Jul 20: Within hours of Indira Gandhi's assassination, members of the Congress Working Committee wanted to nominate her son Rajiv as the caretaker Prime Minister but the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee did not agree, says a new book.

In his autobiography Beyond the Lines, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar recounts the fast-paced developments on Oct 31, 1984. "Pranab Mukherjee said the senior-most person should be the officiating Prime Minister till Rajiv Gandhi was formally elected by the Congress Parliamentary Party."

Another party leader said an even more fascinating thing at the same meeting. "Arjun Singh was on a different wicket. He insisted on having Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister," Nayar writes.

The other CWC members ignored both the above suggestions and endorsed Rajiv. However, Pranab had to pay a heavy price for his 'dissent'.

"Rajiv Gandhi understandably did not include Mukherjee in the government he constituted. Soon he (Rajiv) resigned from prime ministership to hold early general election," Nayar recalls.

It is worth noting that Pranab was subsequently suspended from Congress for his alleged involvement in anti-party activities. Though he formed the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress, Pranab remained more or less in the political wilderness until he managed the 1989 rapprochement with Rajiv Gandhi.

After the latter was killed by a LTTE suicide bomber in May 1991, Pranab again emerged as a prominent figure on the national stage. He held important portfolios and was for long the UPA government's principal trouble-shooter. Observers feel his comeback will be complete when he becomes, as is widely expected, the 13th President of India.

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