Pranab Mukherjee reveals why on two occasions he thought he would become PM
New Delhi, Oct 18: Finally, the "mystery" as to whether former president Pranab Mukherjee ever wanted to become the Prime Minister of the country has been unveiled.
Now, we also know that Mukherjee, who was a part of the Congress for long before becoming the president of India back in 2012, also himself thought that he would become the PM on two occasions.
The former Union minister in his latest book--"Coalition Years: 1996-2012"--a memoir--revealed all these "mysteries" for the readers. The book was released recently in the national capital at a high-profile function attended by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh, among others.
Writing in his book, Mukherjee stated that he expected to be chosen as the PM on two occasions -- first in 2004 when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power, and later in 2012 ahead of the Presidential election.
The veteran Congress leader, Mukherjee, stated that after Congress president Gandhi named Singh as her choice for the PM, he was actually reluctant to join the government as a cabinet minister under Singh, who had been his junior when he was finance minister under Indira Gandhi.
However, he rubbishes the perception that Singh was an "accidental PM".
"A strong nationalist, a man of courage and conviction, Singh was certainly not an 'accidental PM'. I am convinced that the future will judge Singh in a different light as (former PM) PV (Narasimha Rao) is assessed today," Mukherjee says.
After Gandhi declined the UPA leaders' proposal to become PM on May 18, 2004, "there was intense speculation in the party and the media about her choice", Mukherjee writes.
"Within the Congress party, the consensus was that the incumbent must be a political leader with experience in party affairs and administration... The prevalent expectation was that I would be the next choice for PM after Gandhi declined," the Congress stalwart writes.
He says that this expectation was possibly based of the fact that "I had extensive experience in government while Singh's vast experience was as a civil servant with five years as a reformist finance minister".
Finally, Gandhi named Singh as her choice and he accepted this.
"Some media commentators reported that I would not join the government because I could not work under Singh, who had been my junior when I was the finance minister. The fact was that I was reluctant to join the government, and informed Gandhi accordingly," Mukherjee says.
Speaking at the release of the book recently, Singh said Mukherjee had every reason to feel that he was better qualified than him for the PM's post.
He also said that contrary to what people may say or write, the two had no serious differences or friction on any matter during the UPA era.
Mukherjee elaborates that once he joined the government at Gandhi's insistence, he enjoyed good rapport with Singh who "seemed to depend" on him.
"She (Sonia Gandhi) insisted that I should join the government since I would be vital to its functioning and also be of support to Dr Singh. As it turned out, Dr Singh would talk to me on all important issues and seemed to depend on me. We shared a good working relationship," Mukherjee says.
The second occasion when Mukherjee expected he would be asked to head the government came just ahead of his nomination as the presidential candidate.
After a meeting with Gandhi on June 2, 2012, when the Congress president discussed with him probable presidential candidates -- including him -- Mukherjee "returned with a vague impression that she (Sonia Gandhi) might wish to consider Manmohan Singh as the UPA presidential nominee".
"I thought that if she selected Singh for the presidential office, she may choose me as the PM. I had heard that she had given this formulation a serious thought while on a holiday in the hills," he writes.
As Mukherjee has revealed everything in details in the book, now all the speculations as why he never became the PM would come to a rest.