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Many in Congress will agree with Pranab Mukherjee’s view on leadership but won’t speak up

Sonia Gandhi was unable to handle the affairs of the party, writes former President Pranab Mukherjee in the third instalment of his upcoming memoir.

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One thing the politicians should learn is to make peace with the past lest it ruin their future. Former President and veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee’s memoir, probably the last in the series, promises to haunt many when released. The book probably carries many more secrets, facts and legacy issues than what the former president could carry with him to the grave.

Pranab Mukherjee, at the book release event of the second volume of his memoirs The Turbulent Years (1980-1996) in January 2016, had said that he wished to keep certain things confidential. “Some facts are to be buried with me,” he is reported to have said. He could have wanted to remain ambiguous on some facts at that time as he was still the President of India. As someone with high standards of ethics and propriety, and a strategic mind, he would not have wanted to wash dirty linen in public. Nor would he have wished to cause any discomfort to the Narendra Modi government. (“I have a conservative approach to this,” he said. “I write at least a page in my diary every day, and its custodian is my daughter [Sharmishta Mukherjee]. I have told her that you may digitise the contents if you want, but you will not release them. People may come to know of events when the government of the day releases files related to that period, not by someone’s recollection of it. Some facts are to be buried with me”).

Also read: Sonia Gandhi to meet party leaders, including those who wrote letter of dissent, Saturday

Who’s scared of Pranab Mukherjee’s writings?

Going by the former president’s own words, the inheritor of his books and thoughts, if not all the secrets, seems to be his daughter and not the son, Abhijit Mukherjee, who has written to the publishers of the book, asking them not to release the memoir till he has gone through it. Abhijit has also suggested that some of the contents of the book could be malicious.

According to media reports, the publishers do not need his permission to go ahead with the release of the book.

It is not clear if Abhijit Mukherjee is privy to the contents of the book or even has the written authority, presumably given to him by the author, his father, to stop it from going public. His fears, that the contents of the book, when published, could bring uncomfortable facts out seem unfounded. What Abhijit Mukheerjee seems to be hinting at is the possible discomfort to the current top leadership of the Congress due to some possible remarks made in the book.

Incidentally, many Congress leaders have opted to wait for the release of the book, read it and then comment. Probably many of them would be secretly concurring to the views of the late veteran on the present leadership, which they can ill afford to express in public.

Also read: Chorus grows from Congress-mukt Bharat to Gandhi-mukt Congress. But where will the family go?

Congress and 2004

According to the pre-publication excerpts released by the publisher, Pranab Mukherjee has recalled some of the challenges he had to face during his stint as the president. He has also raised questions over the leadership of Sonia Gandhi. It is possible that he seriously believed that the Congress would choose him as the prime minister in 2004, or at least in 2014 against BJP’s Narendra Modi. However, it is doubtful if this would have happened.

Besides, Pranab Mukherjee was probably one politician who held some of the highest constitutional positions in the country, including that of the head of State, without even winning a Lok Sabha election until 2004. Even in 2004, his own party chief was not sure of his winning and he was told, “You need not wait till you are sure you’ve lost; return immediately.” In hindsight, it would be safe to say that going by the electioneering of Narendra Modi in 2014, a Congress led by Pranab Mukherjee would not have gained even one seat more than what the party got.

This explains why he chose to refute the view of some Congress leaders, who believed had he become the prime minister in 2004, the party might have averted the woeful drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. It is doubtful if he would have conducted the affairs of the country, especially the economic affairs, in any manner different than former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“Though I don’t subscribe to this view [of his becoming the PM in 2004], 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 in the yet-to-be launched book, excerpts of which were released last week.

Pranab Mukherjee’s comparison of the working styles of different prime ministers, especially the recent ones, should make an interesting read. One hopes the leaders of the two national parties take a few leaves out of Pranab Da’s book seriously.

The author is the former editor of ‘Organiser’. Views are personal.

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  1. When people who give an affidavit in COURT that SHRI RAM is a myth just to be in good books of THE FAMILY to get a share of power knowing fully that they are not leaders who can win elections. Than such leaders criticism after being not in power is a reflection of their selfish nature.

    If you can’t defend your own religion in greed of political power than you cannot be a reliable person.

  2. Is there any BJP party member who can afford to speak up against Modi, Mr Chari? Stop self-righteous gloating and your giving expression to puerile views.

  3. The absence of inner party democracy in all political parties is a fact of life. So is creeping, if not in your face, dynastic succession. It is just that in the Congress these virtues have had more time to blossom.

  4. That is the bane of congress. Congressmen suffer from the Emergency Syndrome from 1975 onwards. Congressmen impose self-censorship on their views. Burying the issues is no solution. They fester and lead to erruption of sores as is happening now. Gradually the world is realising that “the Emperor is Nude”.

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