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”).
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.
I , the Son of the author of the Memoir " The Presidential Memoirs " request you to kindly stop the publication of the memoir as well as motivated excerpts which is already floating in certain media platforms without my written consent .1/3
— Abhijit Mukherjee (@ABHIJIT_LS) December 15, 2020
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.
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.