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PM Modi did not discuss demonetisation: Pranab Mukherjee in memoir

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New Delhi, Jan 05: In his memoir The Presidential Years, Former President Pranab Mukherjee has written that he was not consulted by Prime Minister Narendera Modi ahead of demonetisation in November 2016.

The Presidential Years is the fourth book authored by Mukherjee, who passed away on August 31, 2020, in New Delhi at the age of 84.

Pranab Mukherjee

On Modi not discussing about demonetisation with him before announcing it, Mukherjee wrote: "I am of the firm opinion that demonetisation could not have been done with prior consultation because the suddenness and surprise, absolutely necessary for such announcements, would have been lost after such a process."

"Therefore, I was not surprised when he did not discuss the issue with me prior to making the public announcement. It also fitted in with his style of making dramatic announcements," he said.

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However, after delivering his address to the nation, Modi visited Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan and explained to him the rationale behind the decision.

"He desired an explicit support from me as a former finance minister of the country. I pointed out to him that while it was a bold step, it may lead to temporary slowdown of the economy. We would have to be extra careful to alleviate the suffering of the poor in the medium to long term," Mukherjee said.

On foreign relations, Mukherjee felt that Modi''s stopover in Lahore was "unnecessary and uncalled for, given the conditions that prevailed" in India-Pakistan relations.

"It was evident that one could expect the unexpected from Modi, because he had come with no ideological foreign policy baggage. He was to continue with these surprises: he made a sudden and unscheduled stop at Lahore in December 2015 to greet his then Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on the latter''s birthday; and he initiated an annual informal summit with the Chinese president - one was held at Wuhan in China in 2018 and the other, more recently, at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu in 2019."

"Since the announcement was made in a sudden and dramatic manner, I asked the PM if he had ensured that adequate currency was there for exchange," he added.

He wrote he had very cordial relations with Prime Minister Modi during his tenure.

"However, I did not hesitate to give my advice on matters of policy during our meetings. There were several occasions when he echoed concerns that I had voiced. I also believe that he has managed to grasp the nuances of foreign policy quickly," the book said.

Mukherjee''s approach to maintaining cordial relations with Modi was rooted in the fact that "I believe in the parliamentary form of government and its principle".

"Modi had received a decisive mandate from the people to administer the country. Administrative powers are vested in the Council of Ministers, which the PM heads. Therefore, I did not breach my jurisdiction. Whenever tricky occasions arose, the issues were resolved," he wrote.

"At an event in which PM Modi released a book and I was present, I remarked that it was not that I did not have any differences with him, but that both of us knew how to manage those differences, without bringing them out in public," he added.

However, Mukherjee lamented that the NDA government, during its first term of 2014-19, failed in its primary responsibility to ensure the smooth and proper functioning of Parliament.

"I attribute the acrimonious exchanges between the Treasury and Opposition benches to the arrogance and inept handling by the government. But the Opposition is not without blame either. It had also behaved irresponsibly," he wrote.

According to Mukherjee, the mere physical presence of the prime minister in Parliament makes a tremendous difference to the functioning of this institution.

"Whether it was Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh, each of these former PMs made their presence felt on the floor of the House.

"PM Modi, now in his second term, must take inspiration from his predecessors and provide visible leadership, through his enhanced presence in Parliament to avoid situations that had precipitated the parliamentary crisis we witnessed in the first term," the book said.

Modi, Mukherjee said, must listen to the dissenting voices and speak more often in Parliament, adding he must use it as a forum to disseminate his views to convince the Opposition and inform the nation.

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