Former president Pranab Mukherjee wanted to become PM: Daughter Sharmishtha’s big revelation

Pranab Mukherjee, the former President, who died in 2020, was a prominent Congress leader and worked with three generations of Gandhis, including Indira Gandhi, Rajeev Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.


Former President Pranab Mukherjee. PHOTO: THE STATESMAN

December 7, 2023

NEW DELHI – Sharmishtha Mukherjee, daughter of former president Pranab Mukherjee, Wednesday said that her father wanted to become the Prime Minister but Sonia Gandhi assumed he would challenge her authority and chose Manmohan Singh instead to safeguard her own and her family’s interests. Speaking to news agency ANI about her new book ‘Pranab My Father’, Sharmishtha Mukherjee, a former Congress leader said that even though the veteran Congress leader wanted to become PM in 2004, he knew he would not be made one.

“Yes, he wanted to become the PM, but he knew that he couldn’t become one, so he was not in some disillusionment that he’ll become a PM one day…I asked him once if he wanted to become a PM and he said yes, any serious politician would like to become one but that doesn’t mean that I’d become the PM,” she said.

“He said that maybe Sonia Gandhi had assumed that he might challenge the authority of Sonia Gandhi…he said that the question was not whether I would have challenged it or not but she felt that…Sonia Gandhi safeguarded her own and her family’s interest so they made someone PM whom they felt would not challenge her authority,” the former Congress leader claimed.

In 2004, when Sonia Gandhi refused to become the PM after the Congress party’s victory, Pranab Mukherjee and Manmohan Singh were two major contenders for the top job. However, Congress went with Manmohan Singh and Pranab’s dream of becoming the Prime Minister could not be fulfilled. This is why Pranab Mukherjee is often called “the PM India never had”.

Sharmishtha also shared excerpts from her new book, which she claims, is based on the notes from Pranab Mukherjee’s diary and the father-daughter conversation. In her book, she has also written about Pranab Mukherjee’s thoughts about Rahul Gandhi.

“One morning, during Pranab’s usual morning walk in the Mughal Gardens (now Amrit Udyan), Rahul came to see him. Pranab disliked any interruptions during his morning walks and puja. Nevertheless, he decided to meet him. It turned out that Rahul was actually scheduled to meet Pranab later in the evening, but his (Rahul’s) office mistakenly informed him that the meeting was in the morning. I came to know about the incident from one of the ADCs. When I asked my father, he commented sarcastically, ‘If Rahul’s office can’t differentiate between ‘a.m’ and ‘p.m’, how do they hope to run the PMO one day?’”

The former President, who died in 2020, was a prominent Congress leader and worked with three generations of Gandhis, including Indira Gandhi, Rajeev Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. In the book, Sharmishtha also claimed that her father considered Rahul Gandhi “politically immature”.

She has, however, also written that Pranab Mukherjee would have appreciated Rahul Gandhi for “dedication, tenacity and the outreach” during the Bharat Jodo Yatra and “countering bigotry”

“Though Pranab was critical of Rahul and seemed to have lost faith in his ability to revive the Congress, one thing is undeniable. Had Pranab been alive today, he would have definitely appreciated Rahul’s dedication, tenacity, and the outreach during the Bharat Jodo Yatra. This 145-day Yatra, spanning over 4,000 km, has arguably positioned Rahul as a highly credible face of the political narrative countering bigotry,” she wrote in the book.

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