Pranab Mukherjee’s memoir, titled, ’The Presidential Years: 2012-2017’ was released on Tuesday. The autobiography was written last year before the former President’s death. With the book’s controversial statements revealing the truth about the grand old party – Congress and reasons behind its diminished power, coupled with PM Narendra Modi’s rise, has caused many ripples in the political circles.
In a no holds barred reveal, Pranab Mukherjee talks at length about the mistakes Sonia Gandhi led Congress made during its tenure, which led to its irrelevance in the country.
Indicating how Manmohan Singh was chosen as the Prime Minister by one individual, in stark contrast to Narendra Modi, who was voted by popular mandate, Pranab Mukherjee’s book read, “Dr Singh was offered the post by Sonia Gandhi; she had been chosen as the prime ministerial candidate by the Congress Parliamentary Party and other constituents of the UPA, but she declined the offer.”
Pranab Mukherjee, in his book, further added, “Modi, on the other hand, became PM through popular choice after leading the BJP to a historic victory in 2014. He is a politician to the core and had been named the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate as the party went into campaign mode. He was then Gujarat”s CM and had built an image that seemed to click with the masses. He has earned and achieved the prime ministership.”
Recognising that the electorate voted for political stability and development in 2014, Pranab Mukherjee’s memoir read, “BJP emerged with a simple majority on its own in the Lok Sabha for the first time and was thus able to form the government, though it still did so by co-opting its allies. But the real winner was the electorate that came out in large numbers and voted decisively, thus indicating its preference for political stability, which it believed would result in development-oriented politics.”
He also recognised PM Modi’s unprecedented mandate by stating, “When the 2014 results were announced, it was clear that the Congress had failed to face the BJP’s onslaught under Modi’s leadership in nearly every part of the country, ending up with a tally of a mere 44 seats.”
Hailing PM Modi’s quick grasp on foreign policy matters, Pranab Mukherjee, through his memoir, said, “When Narendra Modi took over as PM, he had absolutely no experience in foreign affairs. As the CM of Gujarat, he had visited some countries, but those visits were limited to engaging for the good of his state and had little to do with domestic or global foreign policies. I also believe that he has managed to grasp the nuances of foreign policy quickly.”
He also spoke at length on Congress’ mishandling of domestic matters. The memoir read, “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.”
He also criticised Sonia Gandhi’s poor leadership for failing to hold on to alliance partners, including TMC in West Bengal. Pranab Mukherjee wrote, “I believe that the leadership of a party in times of crisis has to evolve a different approach. If I had continued in the government as finance minister, I would have ensured Mamata’s continuity in the coalition.” He also wrote, “Similarly, Maharashtra was handled badly, partly due to decisions taken by Sonia Gandhi.”
Highlighting the sense of entitlement the Gandhi family has, he said, “I feel that the party failed to recognise the end of its charismatic leadership. Tall leaders like Pandit Nehru ensured that India, unlike Pakistan, survived and developed into a strong and stable nation. Sadly, such extraordinary leaders are not there anymore, reducing the establishment to a government of averages.”
It is pertinent to note that while Pranab Mukherjee’s son and former Congress MP Abhijit Mukherjee had been pressing the publishers not to publish the book, his daughter Sharmistha, Congress’ official spokesperson, had supported the memoir all out.