Pranab as HM in 2004: Mukherjee proposed, Sonia disposed

Former President Pranab Mukherjee’s tryst with unfulfilled dreams appears to be an unending saga throughout his political life.

If he thought he may become Prime Minister in 2012 with the possible elevation of Manmohan Singh as President, eight years before that he wished, to be the Home Minister but Congress President Sonia Gandhi had other ideas.

Mukherjee, who was elected President in 2012 and demitted office three months ago, recalls the stories of these misses between the cup and lips in the third and final volume ‘The Coalition Years: 1996-2012’.

Pranab Cover

He touches upon “prevalent expectation” that he would be the “next choice for Prime Minister” in 2004 after Gandhi famously declines to take over the top post, saying it was possibly based on the fact that he had extensive experience in the government but Singh, who was eventually chosen, was know for his bureaucratic expertise.

This even led to frenzied speculation that he would not join the government under Singh. Mukherjee remembers that he was “reluctant to join” but Gandhi insisted that his presence was vital to the functioning of the government as also a “support to Dr Singh”.

“As it turned out, Dr Singh would talk to me on all important issues and seemed to depend on me. We shared a good working relationship,” he recalls.

He joined the government as Defence Minister but that was not his choice. Gandhi initially wanted him to take over as Finance Minister but Mukherjee was unenthusiastic and told her that he would not take it up due to his “ideological differences on economic policy” with Singh.

“However, I told her that I would prefer Home over External Affairs — I had worked as the chairman of the Standing Committee on Home Affairs for over six years and was conversatn with the ministry — and that I had no experience in Defence,” Mukherjee writes.

“She heard me out, making no commitment, nor indicating a decision other than saying that Defence was a world in itself and the Defence Ministry would offer me maximum autonomyu, taking into account my seniority. It was at the swearing-in that I got to know that I was to be the Minister of Defence,” he says.

He also remembers that Gandhi telling him inn 2007 that she cannot spare him from government and elevate him as country’s President after the Left parties suggest his name. In 2012 also, initially Gandhi had told him so. (

In his second volume ‘Turbulent Years: 1980-1996’, he had recalled how his relationship with Rajiv Gandhi was soured over his reported wish to become ‘Interim Prime Minister’ after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. He had said he did not aspire so but such “false and spiteful” stories created misgivings in Rajiv’s mind. (

 Oct 16, 2017

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)

Divided over Cong, CPI(M) to meet again

Factions led by Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat will lock horns once again at the three-day CPI(M) Central Committee beginning Saturday on whether to keep its doors “tactically open” for an understanding with Congress to counter BJP.

After the Polit Bureau failed to reach a consensus despite two meetings in the past one month, the Central Committee would now debate the outline for the draft political resolution that would be placed before the Party Congress in Hyderabad next April.

While the factions led by General Secretary Yechury and former General Secretary Karat have now arrived at a consensus on ousting BJP government as party’s primary task, the difference is over how to achieve this objective.

The Central Committee would debate the lines of both the factions though the Polit Bureau, where Karat faction has majority, had expressed its vociferous opposition to the idea of having any links with Congress.

Sources claimed the Karat faction wants an explicit mention against Congress in the draft resolution that will be finalised by January.

While the Karat faction, which has the support of Kerala unit, argue that tie-ups or understanding with Congress had never helped the CPI(M), the Yechury supporters, predominantly from the Bengal unit, argue that the party should hold hands with all non-Left secular parties, including Congress, to counter the BJP.

The Yechury faction believes that they are being unnecessarily branded “pro-Congress” when they do not insist on forming a political front with Congress.


Sources said their argument is that “why one should tie your hands” by singling out Congress when there were past experiments along with Congress on cooperating with Fronts “from outside” in the case of United Front and UPA governments. They argue that one cannot take anti-Congressism to “logical absurdity”.

While “not entering” into a political front with non-Left parties, the Yechury faction argues that “a degree of understanding to achieve the objective of ousting and defeating BJP must be forged”. They cite the example of allowing Andhra Pradesh unit to enter into a seat “adjustment” with Congress in 2004 elections as well as similar exercise in Punjab, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.

Sources said the meeting could see a vertical divide over the issue and if there is no compromise on the outline, the Central Committee in January next year to finalise the draft resolution would address the question.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 13, 2017)


BJP leaders giving slip to Pranab book launch?

Former President Pranab Mukherjee’s third volume of autobiography will hit the stands with its launch on Friday in the presence of ‘who-is-who’ from the Opposition.

None from the ruling dispensation will be on the dais, as the invite from the publisher reads that ‘The Coalition Years: 1996-2012’ will be released in the “presence of Manmohan Singh, Sitaram Yechury, Rahul Gandhi, S Sudhakar Reddy, Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Satish Chandra Mishra and M K Kanimozhi”.

Sources said Mukherjee’s office had approached some government leaders but they did not confirm their presence at the function and that was why their names did not appear on the invite.

The Coalition Years e-invite

Mukherjee, before becoming the President in July 2012, served as minister under Manmohan Singh-led Congress government while CPI(M) General Secretary Yechury was part of a number of efforts since 1996 when coalition governments were formed.

Whether it is CPI (General Secretary Reddy), Samajawadi Party (National President Yadav), BSP (General Secretary Mishra) or DMK (Kanimozhi), all these parties had played significant roles in the making and breaking of coalition governments since 1996.

The final volume of his autobiography, which comes three months after he demitted the office of President, would deal with the experiments in coalition governments . However, it would not deal with his years in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The book is likely to have inside stories of the formation of these stories and the UPA experiment, the pulls and pressures of running a coalition government and Mukherjee’s views on such dispensations.

The book will deal with the Congress’ defeat in 1996 Lok Sabha elections and the rise of regional parties like TDP and Trinamool Congress. It would also throw some light into the reveal the compelling factors that forced Congress to withdraw support to the I K Gujral government.

It will also have Mukherjee’s vivid recollection as a Union Minister in Defence, External Affairs and Finance from 2004 and details of a meeting with Henry Kissinger in 2004 that is said to have altered the course of the Indo–US strategic partnership.

The first volume ‘The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years’, which “chronicle the politically tumultuous 1970s”, was out in December 2014 while the second volume ‘The Turbulent Years’, which “opens in mid-1980s and end at 1996”, was released in January 2016.

In the book dealing with Indira Gandhi’s time, which was written while he was the President, Mukherjee had said the infamous could have been an “avoidable event” and Congress and Indira Gandhi paid a “heavy price for this “misadventure”.

The second volume tries to correct a picture of Mukherjee wanting to succeed Indira. He said in this book that he did not aspire to become interim Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi’s assassination but such “false and spiteful” stories created misgivings in Rajiv Gandhi’s mind that soured their relationship.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 11, 2017)

Callous attitude towards farmers in Yavatmal: NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday castigated authorities for their “callous and negligent attitude” that led to the death of 18 farmers in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal due to infection caused by spraying a pesticide on cotton crops.

Seeking reports from the Centre and Maharashtra government, it said due to lack of proper awareness about a complicated technology for spraying pesticides on cotton crops, the farmers’ Rights to Life and Livelihood have been “grossly violated”.

Quoting media reports, the NHRC said several farmers had to be hospitalised in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra due to an infection caused by spraying of a pesticide on the cotton crops. Many have died while others are serious, it said.


(Pesticide poisoning: Over 100 farmers are recovering at a district hospital in Yavatmal. Pix courtesy: NDTV)

“The Commission has observed that most of the farmers in the country are not adequately literate and are relying on the government agencies for the safe use of the agricultural products and the ancillary techniques. The victim farmers have fallen prey to the callous and negligent attitude of the government departments,” the NHRC said.

It has asked the Union Agriculture Secretary and the Maharashtra Chief Secretary to submit detailed reports within four weeks. The action came after the NHRC tool suo motu cognizance of media reports about the deaths.

The Chief Secretary has also been directed to ensure that the best treatment is provided free of cost to the farmers, who are either admitted to hospitals or taking treatment as an out-patient.

He has been asked to inform about the steps taken to stop recurrence of such incidents and the action against the guilty officers. The Commission also expects the details of the ex-gratia relief paid to the victims and rehabilitation of the aggrieved families along with the policy perspective on the issue, a statement said.

Maharashtra government has announced an inquiry into the deaths of 18 Yavatmal farmers and farm labourers. The reports said that the state Agriculture Minister has said that the farmers have not been following the directions for wearing gloves and protective clothing.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 10, 2017)

Hate speech: Expert panel for strengthening IPC

Acknowledging the need for regulation of internet content as an “emerging necessity”, a government panel has recommended strengthening of existing penal provisions to deal with hate speech rather than re-introducing the controversial Section 66A.

The emphasis of the report of the nine-member expert committee led by former Law Secretary T K Viswanathan is to strengthen the Indian Penal Code (IPC) “instead of re-introducing a renovated” Section 66A in Information Technology Act, which was annulled by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development had argued before the panel for reintroduction of Section 66A, which was notorious for its misuse, but it felt that the IT Act was “essentially commercial in nature and therefore, any act invoking punishment, a specific provision must be inserted in the IPC which is more competent to tackle criminal affairs”.

The panel was appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to prepare a roadmap to address the “existing vacuum” caused by the annulment of 66A and provide an alternate formulation in law to deal with problem of “harmful content radiated over the electronic media” that will stand scrutiny of the Courts.


In its interim report, it has recommended inclusion of a new section to the IPC to deal with “content regulation on social media or other internet platforms used for articulating unpleasant opinions”.

The panel said Section 153C is aimed at prohibiting incitement to hatred and invites punishment of two years, and fine up to Rs 5000, or both. Section 505A aims at punishing the act of causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence with imprisonment of one year, fine up to Rs 5000 or both.

Besides, amendment to CrPC is recommended to create State Cyber Crime Coordinator and District Cyber Crime Cells. An amendment to the IT Act is envisaged to allow a police officer not below the rank of Sub Inspector to investigate any offence under this Act.

Before finalising its recommendation, the panel studied the practices in other countries, including the United States, Germany, European Union and Australia among others. “In consonance with the global developments in this arena, the need for regulation of internet content has likewise become an emerging necessity in India,” the panel said.

Quoting from UK House of Commons’ report on ‘Hate Crimes: Abuse, Hate and Extremism Online’, the panel said there is a great deal of evidence that social media platforms are being used to spread hate, abuse and extremism.

“That trend continues to grow at an alarming rate but it remains unchecked and, even where it is illegal, largely unpoliced. Women in particular have become targets for abuse and misogynistic harassment on social media, particularly on Twitter,” it quoted from the report.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 9, 2017)

Pix Courtesy: theodysseyonline

Consensus eludes top CPM leaders on Cong

CPI(M) once again failed to reach a consensus on its approach towards Congress party in a stormy Polit Bureau meeting on Monday to decide on the outline for draft political resolution for next year’s Party Congress.

As there was no common ground on having truck with Congress, sources said, the pro-Congress and anti-Congress viewpoints would now be placed before the three-day Central Committee meeting scheduled to begin on October 14.

The meeting saw supporters of General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, who are in a minority in the Polit Bureau and wants a change in party’s political tactical line to accommodate Congress, and Prakash Karat vociferously putting their point. This was the second meeting of the Polit Bureau within a month to finalise the outline.


The factional feud in the CPI(M) is likely to intensify in the run up to the Party Congress in Hyderabad in April next year and a section led by Karat may object to giving Yechury a second term as General Secretary. With S Ramachandran Pillai crossing the 80-year-old mark, the Karat faction may toy with the idea of replacing Yechury with Brinda Karat or B V Raghavulu.

Yechury was made the General Secretary in 2015 though Karat, the then General Secretary, and his camp were in favour of Pillai.

Sources said the battle has now moved to the Central Committee that would see the Bengal unit, who is for a pro-Congress approach, and Kerala unit, which is vehemently against any tie-up with the main opposition party, fighting for supremacy. Yechury has the support of Bengal unit while Kerala unit backs Karat.

While Yechury camp is arguing that the political situation has changed drastically after the 2015 Party Congress and there is a need for reviewing the line, Karat faction is of the view that all these “possible changes” were factored in while finalising the political line three years ago.

The draft resolution will be finalised by the Central Committee in January next year and put in public domain for discussions before the Party Congress finalises it. During this period, public and party units can suggest amendments while delegates also can suggest changes to the resolution during the Party Congress.

After the last Polit Bureau meeting on September 7, Yechury had said the conditions have changed since the last Party Congress in 2015 and that its analysis and alignment accordingly will change. “The basic essential element of Marxism is concrete analysis of concrete conditions,” he had then said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 3, 2017)

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