The late Pranab Mukherjee believed that the leadership of the Congress lost political focus after he became President, and that Manmohan Singh’s preoccupation with saving the UPA coalition impacted governance, according to excerpts from Mukherjee’s forthcoming memoir that were released by the book’s publisher, Rupa, on Friday, his birth anniversary.
According to Mukherjee, some leaders of the Congress believed that had he become Prime Minister in 2004, the “drubbing” of 2014 may have been avoided. Narendra Modi’s style is “autocratic”, Mukherjee believed, as per the extracts.
“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 Singh’s prolonged absence from the House put an end to any personal contact with other MPs,” Mukherjee has written.
“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,” Mukherjee has written, according to the excerpts.
“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.”
In the third volume of his memoirs, The Coalition Years, Mukherjee had revealed that he believed he could have been the Congress’s choice for Prime Minister even in 2012.
He recalled that Sonia Gandhi had told him on June 2, 2012 that he was most eminently suited for the high office of the President, but he should not forget the crucial role he was playing in the functioning of the UPA government. In fact, Sonia asked him to suggest an alternative name as the UPA’s presidential nominee.
“The meeting ended and I returned with a vague impression that she 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 prime minister. I had heard a rumour that she had given this formulation serious thought while on a holiday in the Kaushambhi hills,” Mukherjee had said in his book.
At the release function of Mukherjee’s memoir, Singh had said: “He (Mukherjee) had every reason to feel a grievance that he was better qualified than I was to become the Prime Minister (in 2004). But he also knew that I had no choice in the matter… He had every reason to believe that he should be the Prime Minister, that didn’t happen. But that didn’t affect our relationship and that relationship of thick and abiding friendship will last, will last as long as we both are living.”