Pranab thought he would become PM in 2012: Book

In a new revelation, former President Pranab Mukherjee says he had a “vague” feeling that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi wanted to nominate Manmohan Singh as UPA presidential candidate in 2012 and make him the Prime Minister.

In the third and final volume of his autobiography ‘The Coalition Years: 1996-2012’ released on Friday evening, Mukherjee also says Gandhi was inclined to make him the Home Minister after Mumbai terror attacks but the then Prime Minister Singh’s advice against it led to P Chidambaram replacing Shivraj Patil.

Recalling the days of hectic negotiations ahead of 2012 Presidential polls in July, he says that Gandhi told him on 2 June 2012 that he was “eminently suited” for the top post but said he “should not forget the crucial role” he plays in the government. She asked him to “suggest a substitute” to which he told her that he have acted as per the leadership’s decision.

“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,” Mukherjee remembers.

The next fortnight days saw hectic political negotiations and Gandhi informing him that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had suggested the names of the then Vice President Hamid Ansari and Mukherjee for the post. Banerjee then consults Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and in a surprise announcement names A P J Abdul Kalam, Singh and Somnath Chatterjee in that order as their choice.

The drama ended after a slew of meetings on 14 June 2012 and Singh informed Mukherjee about his discussions about the issue and their “joint decision” to nominate Mukherjee.

Pranab Cover

He also refers to Sharad Pawar who went to create his own party was irked with Gandhi because she relied more P Shiv Shankar on all important issues. “This sense of alienation and disenchantment may have been responsible for his statements on Sonia’s foreign origin and his subsequet exit from the party in 1999,” he adds.

Mukherjee also remembers that P Chidambaram was “stridently vocal” against Patil at a Congress Working Committee meeting, three days after the Mumbai attacks. He says he tried to bring the “sentiment down a bit”. On 1 December 2012, Singh calls him for a meeting where he was told Patil had resigned and tells him about Gandhi’s preference.

Singh said he told Gandhi he could not change Mukherjee at that time and “hence it was decided” that Chidambaram would replace Patil.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 14, 2017)

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