At a time the Congress confronts in-house criticism of its top leadership after a string of election defeats, a soon-to-be-released final volume of Pranab Mukherjee’s memoirs may stir more debate. The former President, who died in October, writes that “some members of the Congress” believed if he had become Prime Minister in 2004 instead of Manmohan Singh, the party might have avoided its 2014 defeat.
According to Rupa, the publishers of “The Presidential Years”, Pranab Mukherjee was “frank” about the reasons for the dismal showing of the Congress in the 2014 general elections. It also deals with his relationship with both Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi.
“Some members of the Congress have theorized that, had I become the PM in 2004, the party might have averted the 2014 Lok Sabha drubbing. Though I don’t subscribe to this view, I do believe that the party’s leadership lost political focus after my elevation as president. While Sonia Gandhi was unable to handle the affairs of the party, Dr (Manmohan) Singh’s prolonged absence from the House put an end to any personal contact with other MPs,” Dr Mukherjee writes, according to an excerpt.
Dr Mukherjee, who was Union Minister in every Congress government until he became President in 2012, also compares the two Prime Ministers he worked with – Manmohan Singh and his successor Narendra Modi.
“We are privy to his thoughts on his relationship with the two prime ministers he worked with, who belonged to two parties and who were (and are) – fiercely opposed to each other. He says: ‘I believe that the moral authority to govern vests with the PM. The overall state of the nation is reflective of the functioning of the PM and his administration. While Dr Singh was preoccupied with saving the coalition, which took a toll on governance, Modi seemed to have employed a rather autocratic style of governance during his – first term, as seen by the bitter relationship among the government, the legislature and the judiciary. Only time will tell if there is a better understanding on such matters in the second term of this government,” said Rupa on the book, set for release in January.
Dr Mukherjee shares episodes like refusing to travel with the American President in his bullet-proof Beast for the Republic Day parade in 2015. He finally travelled in his own limousine and the US President travelled on his own.
The book is expected to reflect on his role and controversial decisions of imposing President’s Rule in various states which were finally overturned by the Supreme Court and the demonetisation exercise.
The publishers call the book a “deeply personal account” in which Dr Mukherjee describes “the difficult decisions he had to make and the tightrope walk he had to undertake to ensure that both constitutional propriety and his opinion were taken into consideration”.