In the second volume of his memoir President Pranab Mukherjee has laid to rest all theories about how he was aspiring to be the Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. He has called the theories “false and spiteful”.
“Many stories have been circulated that I aspired to be the interim Prime Minister, that I had staked claim and had to be persuaded otherwise…And that this created misgivings in Rajiv Gandhi’s mind. These stories are completely false and spiteful,” says the Predsident in the book.
The President then goes on to write in detail the conversation he had with Rajiv Gandhi in a bathroom about Prime Ministership.
“Time was ticking away and I was very keen to talk to him. I went near the couple (Rajiv and Sonia) and gently touched Rajiv on the back of his shoulder to indicate that I had some very urgent work with him. He released himself from Sonia’s arms and turned around to talk to me…Knowing that I would not have disturbed him unless the matter was very urgent and confidential, he quickly led me to the bathroom attached to the room so that we could talk without being noticed by anyone else who may enter the room,” Mukherjee said.
The second volume of the memoir, The Turbulent Years: 1980-96 was released by Vice President Hamid Ansari in Delhi on Thursday afternoon.
The book later also talks about why Mukherjee was dropped from Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet and also ousted from the party in April 1986.
“To the question of why he dropped me from the Cabinet and expelled me from the party, all I can say is that he made mistakes and so did I. He let others influence him and listened to their calumnies against me. I let my frustration overtake my patience,” the President said.
He also regretted having left the Congress and forming the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress (RSC).
“I should have the wisdom to realise that I was (and am) not a mass leader. Those who left the Congress rarely succeeded. I could have been of some help to the Congress party and the government during those crucial years of 1986 and 1987 when everything seemed to go wrong for Rajiv,” Mukherjee admitted after he rejoined the party two years later.
In the book, President Mukherjee has called Rajiv Gandhi a “reluctant politician” who was forced to become PM by the circumstances.
“He (Rajiv) was ahead of his times. He wanted rapid change and saw the old guard in the Congress as an obstacle to his vision. He was forward looking, tech savvy and welcomed foreign investment in India as well as enlargement of the market economy,” revealed the President in his memoir.
(With inputs from PTI)