Man­mo­han: Pranab was bet­ter qual­i­fied to be PM

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION -

New Delhi: For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh said Pranab Mukher­jee would be jus­ti­fied in feel­ing ag­grieved on be­ing passed over for the top job in 2004 since the for­mer Pres­i­dent was bet­ter qual­i­fied to lead the gov­ern­ment, but added that he “had no choice in the mat­ter” as the de­ci­sion to in­stall him was that of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

“In 2004, Mukher­jee had all rea­son to feel the griev­ance that he was bet­ter qual­i­fied than me to be the PM but he knew that I had no choice,” Singh said at a func­tion to re­lease the third in­stal­ment of Muk­jer­jee’s book ‘Coali­tion Years’. The re­mark pro­voked loud guf­faws on the dais that seated Mukher­jee, CPM gen­eral sec­re­tary Si­taram Yechu- ry, SP head Akhilesh Ya­dav, CPI gen­eral sec­re­tary Sud­hakar Reddy and DMK’s Kan­i­mozhi, as well as the front row which had Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. BSP’s SC Mishra, who was slated to be on the dais, did not turn up.

The oc­ca­sion was marked by a strong push by non-Congress lead­ers for putting to­gether an anti-BJP coali­tion. Reddy said the threat fac­ing democ­racy had re­vived the need for an anti-BJP coali­tion. Akhilesh said Mukher­jee’s les­sons on coali­tion would be a big help ahead of the 2019 polls. Kan­i­mozhi praised Mukher­jee for con­demn­ing “in­tol­er­ance” and stress­ing on the need for “di­a­logue” even while be­ing the Pres­i­dent. She said rights of states were be­ing taken away un­der the BJP regime and a voice like Mukher­jee’s would “make a dif­fer­ence”.

But it was Singh’s can­did com­ments which turned out to be the high­light. It was his first ever re­mark on his re­la­tion­ship with Mukher­jee, of­ten de­scribed as tense be­cause of the lat­ter’s widely spec­u­lated re­sent­ment over hav­ing to make way for Singh in 2004 when Congress pulled of an up­set to form the gov­ern­ment.

Ex-Pres­i­dent Pranab Mukher­jee and ex-PM Man­mo­han Singh at the re­lease of the for­mer’s book ‘The Coali­tion Years’ in New Delhi

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