After the death of Indira Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee always had a special place in Indian politics. At the time of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, both Rajiv Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee were out of Delhi, and were together. While they were returning to Delhi there was a discussion that as Indira had died, who would take her place to be the next Prime Minister. At that time Pranab said that he is the senior-most member and he should be the next Prime Minister. He said it once, and it was conveyed to Rajiv Gandhi. When Rajiv came to Delhi with Pranab, he was administered the oath as the Prime Minister by Giani Zail Singh, because Arun Nehru thought that if he didn’t become the Prime Minister now then many other names could come up.
When Rajiv formed his Cabinet, he didn’t include Pranab because he hadn’t forgotten that Pranab wanted to be the Prime Minister. After the assassination of Rajiv , elections were held and the Congress again formed the government. Pranab again thought that he could be the Prime Minister, but Congress leaders, mainly Sitaram Kesari, helped Narsimha Rao to be the next Prime Minister. When the third opportunity came to Pranab in 2004, everybody was certain that Sonia Gandhi would be their leader. If any single person was responsible for making Sonia the first choice and getting the opposition ready, it was V.P. Singh. Sonia refused to be the Prime Minister. She could have made Pranab, the most senior and sensible person in the party, the Prime Minister, but she chose Manmohan Singh over him. Pranab was not able to forget this situation. He was the one who appointed Manmohan Singh as the Governor of the Reserve Bank. Pranab was way ahead of Manmohan Singh in terms of seniority and sensibility. Pranab got a fourth chance in 2012 when Congress had to choose their candidate for the post of President. Pranab was very hurt that his name was put in the list with Hamid Ansari. He told his very close friends that what was the need to give two names, and why did his name come after Hamid Ansari?
For Pranab this incident was a huge blow, and it enraged him. He started to follow his contacts. The Congress had not even finalised their nominee, when Pranab started to ask for votes from leaders all over the country. When Mamata Banerjee came to meet Sonia, the latter gave her two names thinking that Mamata will agree to Hamid Ansari’s name, and would reject Pranab Mukherjee’s name. But Mamata came out and said that she is not going to support any of the Congress candidates. The Congress was in a ‘Catch 22 situation’ If they dropped the name of Pranab, then he might rebel against the party.
Pranab was very hurt that his name was put in the list with Hamid Ansari. He told his very close friends that what was the need to give two names, and why did his name come after Hamid Ansari?
On the night of 13 June, Pranab was sitting at his home unhappy, when Ahmed Patel came to talk to him. Essentially, this talk was between Sonia’s representative Ahmed Patel and someone who thinks of himself as the most able and intelligent leader of the country. Pranab made it clear that either Manmohan Singh be made the President as recommended by Mamata and Mulayam Singh and he should become the Prime Minister, or if Manmohan Singh remains the Prime Minister, then he should be made the President.
Pranab was not able to accept the fact that the person whom he made the Governor of RBI, is now the Prime Minister, and he as the Finance Minister has to stand up every time Manmohan Singh comes. That’s why he made the choice between Prime Minister and President, thinking that he would accept whatever he gets. And if he didn’t get anything, then he would rebel against the Congress. Ahmed Patel, after hearing this went directly to Sonia and told her the real situation. Now Sonia had no other choice, but to declare Pranab as the candidate for the post of President. Manmohan Singh didn’t want to be the President. He has started a new trend in the party. Whatever he wants to say he conveys it through the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). It seems that the PMO is more powerful than the Prime Minister himself. The Prime Minister doesn’t pass a comment — the comment comes from the PMO, and the PMO’s comment means Pulak Chaterjee’s comment. The PMO made the statement that Manmohan Singh will remain the Prime Minister. If this statement had to come, it should have come from the Congress President. In the meeting where Pranab was announced as the Congress’s nominee for President, there was not a single TV footage or photograph showing Sonia and Pranab looking at each other with a smiling face or congratulating each other. Pranab in his first response after the announcement as the UPA’s Presidential candidate didn’t mention Sonia Gandhi. Pranab thanked her only on the next day for selecting him as the Presidential candidate.
It’s a great honour for the country that someone like Pranab Mukherjee is going to be the President of India. Because he is a person who is aware of all the political values and political nitty-gritty. He also knows what decisions to take and what will be their consequences. Pranab Mukherjee might not act as a rubberstamp President, unlike others who were unduly used by the Government in power for its own ends. Pranab is the person who has still maintained decency in his politics. He has always given the same amount of respect to suggestions from the Opposition as well as from Congress. The Congress party was not able to understand such an approach.
Pranab was sad that he never became the Prime Minister, but now after becoming the President, he won’t be having that pain and sorrow. Now he will be holding the highest post of the country. He will be the first citizen of the country. Whenever he will arrive Manmohan Singh will stand up to show his respect. He can give his advice with authority on whatever he feels is right. Till he was Finance Minister, his advice was taken on economic matters. He was known as the trouble shooter of the Congress. Whenever there was a political crisis in the Congress, he took the responsibility. We should hope that Pranab will also take care of the problems, whenever the country is facing any crisis. Pranab failed as Finance Minister, but saying that he would be the most successful President won’t be a hyperbole. Pranab Mukherjee has had many good advisors. Due to his advisor Omita Paul he has been the butt of many jokes. Politics is such a quagmire that whenever a woman’s name is linked to a politician, our lower middle class mentality erupts. But the way in which Omita Paul has supported Pranab without bothering about the criticism must be welcomed. While Pranab was in the Finance Ministry, Omita Paul was the one who advised him on taking most of the decisions. At the same time, she was the one who was responsible for the decisions he did not take. Omita was an unsuccessful advisor to an unsuccessful Finance Minister. Maybe she turns out to be a successful advisor to a successful President. Let’s hope for the best.