Pranab Mukherjee Was More Qualified To Be The PM, But I Had No Choice: Manmohan Singh

| October 14 , 2017 , 11:26 IST

“Sonia Ji chose me to be the Prime Minister and Pranab ji was the most distinguished colleague that I had. He had every reason to feel a grievance that he was better qualified than I was to become the Prime Minister, but he also knew that I had no choice in the matter.” There was a loud burst of laughter and the sound of claps as Dr. Manmohan Singh said this.

He went ahead to say “…therefore that smoothened our relationship. We ran the government as a cohesive team of which Shri Pranab Mukherjee was the most important member. I do not recall any matter, any serious issues on which we had differences of opinion. I invariably took note of the fact that he was the senior most member of my party and was my senior most colleague.” 

Dr. Manmohan Singh was speaking at the launch of President Mukherjee's new book, 'The Coalition Years: 1996-2012,' in Delhi.

In 2004, Sonia Gandhi, Congress chief, had unexpectedly named Dr. Singh as the Prime Ministerial face after the UPA had defeated the NDA in the General Elections.

"He is a politician by choice and it comes naturally to him... I became a politician by accident," said Dr. Singh, praising Mr. Mukherjee who became President of India in 2012.He said that history would record Mukherjee's great contribution to the management of Indian polity. 

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The former prime minister described Mukherjee as the "most distinguished living parliamentarian and Congressman", whom everyone in the party looked up to for discussing and resolving ticklish and difficult issues.

Pranab Mukherjee wrote in his book that after the 2004 election victory there was intense speculation in the party about who would be the prime minister, but the consensus within the Congress was that the incumbent should be a political leader with experience in party affairs and administration.
"The prevalent expectation was that I would be the next choice for prime minister after Sonia Gandhi declined. This expectation was possibly based on the fact that I had extensive experience in government," he wrote. 

Mukherjee also said that when he declined to join the government headed by Manmohan Singh, Sonia insisted on his being a part of it as he would be "vital to its functioning and also be of support of Singh". 

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Mukherjee, in his speech at the book release function, described the Congress as a coalition in itself, as it brings all ideas on one platform. 
"It was difficult to have one coalition within and another outside. But that was done," he said. 

Mukherjee said in the book he has described the coalition years and tried not to bring in any personal matters. He said running the coalition government seemed difficult but everything worked out smoothly. 

Pranab Mukherjee was widely expected to be the Congress choice for the Prime Minister's post after Sonia Gandhi declined to lead the government in 2004.