Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday that ex-President Pranab Mukherjee had every reason to be aggrieved at being ignored for prime ministership despite being more qualified but he knew “I had no choice” in the matter, and that smoothened their relationship.
Singh was speaking at the launch of the former President’s new book, The Coalition Years: 1996 to 2012, where Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi was also present. Singh said when Congress President Sonia Gandhi chose him to be the Prime Minister in 2014, Pranab Mukherjee was the most distinguished colleague he had.
“He (Mukherjee) had every reason to be aggrieved. He was better qualified than me to be the Prime Minister but he also knew I had no choice in the matter,” Singh said.
Mukherjee said when he declined to join the government headed by Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi asked him to be a part of it as he would be “vital to its functioning and also be of support of Singh”. Mukherjee, in his speech, described the Congress as a coalition in itself, as it brought all ideas on one platform. “It was difficult to have one coalition within and another outside. But that was done,” he said.
The former PM described Mukherjee as the”most distinguished living parliamentarian and Congressman”, whom everyone in the party looked up to for discussing and resolving difficult issues. “He is a politician by choice. He is the greatest politician living in the country. I became a politician by accident when P V Narasimha Rao asked me to become the Finance Minister,” he said.
Incidentally, Mukherjee, who was the Finance Minister in 1982, had appointed Manmohan Singh as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. However, Singh said his appointment as the Prime Minister did not lead to any bad blood between the two and he still enjoyed good relations with Mukherjee.
With PTI inputs