New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi “plays up personal equations” with world leaders and his visit to Nawaz Sharif in Lahore was “unnecessary and uncalled for”, late former president Pranab Mukherjee wrote in his autobiography.
The fourth volume of Mukherjee’s autobiography, The Presidential Years: 2012-2017, was released Tuesday. Its final draft had been cleared by him before his demise on 31 August 2020.
“I totally oppose the expressions of personal friendships (Abe called Modi his most dependable friend), because friendships are between countries. I do not subscribe to the belief that such special friendships have any worth when it comes to international relationships, where every relationship is impersonal,” Mukherjee wrote in the memoir.
“Even my friendship with Bangladesh was completely political. Of course, my relationship with Sheikh Hasina was personal when she was in exile. Personally, I believe that PM Modi plays up personal equations too much. To take such relationships as true is a bit absurd,” he added.
Commenting on Modi’s Lahore trip in 2015 to greet then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday, Mukherjee said it was “unnecessary and uncalled for”.
“I personally feel that PM Modi’s stopover in Lahore was unnecessary and uncalled for, given the conditions that prevailed in India-Pakistan relations,” he wrote.
‘Modi’s style autocratic, should listen to dissenting voices’
Mukherjee also called Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s working style “autocratic” and said he should listen more to “dissenting” voices.
“While Dr (Manmohan) 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,” he wrote.
Modi failed in his “primary responsibility to ensure the smooth and proper functioning of Parliament”, wrote the ex-President.
“I attribute the acrimonious exchanges between the Treasury and Opposition benches to the arrogance and inept handling by the government. But the Opposition is not without blame either. It had also behaved irresponsibly,” he wrote.
Mukherjee wrote that Modi should take inspiration from his predecessors such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Singh, and make his presence felt in the Parliament.
“He must listen to the dissenting voices and speak more often in Parliament. He must use it as a forum to disseminate his views to convince the Opposition and inform the nation,” he wrote.
‘Congress wouldn’t have faced drubbing if I was in active politics’
The former president also wrote that if he had continued to remain in active politics, the Congress wouldn’t have faced a drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
“If I had continued in the government as finance minister, I would have ensured Mamata (Banerjee)’s continuity in the coalition. Similarly, Maharashtra was handled badly, partly due to decisions taken by Sonia Gandhi. I would have brought back Shivraj Patil or Sushil Kumar Shinde, considering the dearth of a strong leader from the state, like Vilasrao Deshmukh. I don’t think I would have allowed the state of Telangana to be created,” he wrote.
“I firmly believe that my presence in active politics would have ensured that the Congress wouldn’t have faced the drubbing it received in the 2014 general elections,” he added.
Mukherjee became the president of the country in 2012, and held the position until 2017.
In the book, he also wrote that the Congress “lost political focus” after he was made president.
“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,” he wrote.
“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 added.
Mukherjee added that during his time in Rajya Sabha, from where he first got elected in 1969, he developed “close links with several leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati”.
“In fact, Mayawati’s personal affinity for me ensured her support during the presidential election, much to the chagrin of the SP supremo. Besides, some senior Congress leaders’ political naiveté and arrogance hurt the fortunes of the party further,” he wrote.
‘Got to know about demonetisation with the rest of the country’
In his book, Mukherjee also discussed in detail the controversial decision by PM Modi to demonetise high-value currency notes in 2016.
Mukherjee wrote that after his address to the nation on 8 November 2016, Modi visited him at Rashtrapati Bhavan and explained his rationale behind demonetisation, and desired his explicit support for the move. Following the meeting, the ex-president issued a statement extending support to the principle.
Mukherjee, however, added that demonetisation has had an adverse impact on the Indian economy and GDP growth, and the multiple objectives of the move have not been met.
“But perhaps one thing can be stated without fear of contradiction: that the multiple objectives of the decision of demonetization, as stated by the government, to bring back black money, paralyse the operation of the black economy and facilitate a cashless society, etc., have not been met,” he wrote.
Mukherjee’s criticism comes despite the fact that he had himself suggested demonetisation to the government in the early 1970s, he wrote.
“Indira Gandhi, however, did not accept my suggestion, pointing out that a large part of the economy was not yet fully monetized and that a substantial part of it was in the informal sector,” he wrote.