In 2004, Pranab wanted to be home minister

In 2004, Pranab wanted to be home minister

Former President Pranab Mukherjee's tryst with unfulfilled dreams appears to be an unending saga throughout his political life.

If he thought he may become prime minister in 2012 with the possible elevation of Manmohan Singh as President, eight years before that he wished to be the home minister but Congress president Sonia Gandhi had other ideas.

Mukherjee, who was elected President in 2012 and demitted office three months ago, recalls the stories of these misses between the cup and lips in the third and final volume of his autobiography, The Coalition Years: 1996-2012.

He touches upon "prevalent expectation" that he would be the "next choice for prime minister" in 2004 after Sonia famously declines to take over the top post, saying it was possibly based on the fact that he had extensive experience in the government but Singh, who was eventually chosen, was known for his bureaucratic expertise.

This even led to frenzied speculation that he would not join the government under Singh. Mukherjee remembers that he was "reluctant to join" but Sonia insisted that his presence was vital to the functioning of the government as also a "support to Dr Singh".

"As it turned out, Dr Singh would talk to me on all important issues and seemed to depend on me. We shared a good working relationship," he recalls.

Mukherjee joined the government as defence minister but that was not his choice.

Sonia initially wanted him to take over as finance minister but Mukherjee was unenthusiastic and told her that he would not take it up due to his "ideological differences on economic policy" with Singh.

"However, I told her that I would prefer home over external affairs - I had worked as the chairman of the Standing Committee on Home Affairs for over six years and was conversant with the ministry - and that I had no experience in defence," Mukherjee writes.

"She (Sonia) heard me out, making no commitment, nor indicating a decision other than saying that defence was a world in itself and the defence ministry would offer me maximum autonomy, taking into account my seniority. It was at the swearing-in that I got to know that I was to be the minister of defence," he says.

Mukherjee also remembers Sonia telling him in 2007 that she cannot spare him from the government and elevate him as country's President after the Left parties suggest his name.

In 2012, too, initially, Pranab had said that 'vague' feeling that Sonia may make him PM

In the second volume, Turbulent Years: 1980-1996, Mukherjee had recalled how his relationship with Rajiv Gandhi soured over his reported wish to become the "interim prime minister" after Indira Gandhi's assassination.

Mukherjee had said that he was not an aspirant but such "false and spiteful" stories created misgivings in Rajiv's mind.

Read also: Post Indira, Pranab didn't want to be PM

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