Pranab Mukherjee questioned Rahul Gandhi's ability to revive Congress, new book reveals (File)
Pranab Mukherjee questioned Rahul Gandhi's ability to lead the Congress and was disappointed by his "frequent disappearing acts", reveals a new book written by Congress veteran Pranab Mukherjee's daughter Sharmishtha Mukherjee.
In the book "Pranab My Father", Sharmishtha Mukherjee, a former Congress leader, shares her father's critical comments on Rahul Gandhi and his take on his relationship with the Gandhi family.
"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 sardonically, 'If Rahul's office can't differentiate between 'a.m' and 'p.m', how do they hope to run the PMO one day?'"
The book features pages of Pranab Mukherjee's diary, which includes his thoughts and ideas on contemporary Indian politics. The former President, who died in 2020, worked with three generations of Gandhis and held top ministries in the government over an illustrious career spanning decades.
Pranab Mukherjee was Finance and Defence Minister in the Congress-led UPA government during the years Rahul Gandhi was starting his political journey as an MP from Amethi.
The book refers to an incident that left Pranab Mukherjee dismayed and wondering about Rahul Gandhi. He "was conspicuously absent during the flag-raising ceremony at the AICC on the party's 130th Foundation Day on 28 December 2014, barely six months after the Congress's loss in the general elections", writes Sharmishtha Mukherjee.
Pranab Mukherjee, according to his daughter, noted in his diary, "Rahul was not present at the AICC function. I don't know the reason but many such incidents happened. As he got everything so easily, he doesn't value it. Soniaji is bent upon making her son the successor but the young man's lack of charisma and political understanding is creating a problem. Can he revive the Congress? Can he inspire people? I don't know".
The Congress veteran was "disappointed with Rahul's frequent disappearing acts", writes Sharmishtha Mukherjee, especially as he personally didn't take time off and diligently attended all official and party events. "He felt that Rahul's frequent breaks during a crucial period of the party were causing him to lose the perception battle."
But while commenting on her father's criticism, Sharmishtha Mukherjee also writes: "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."