The late Pranab Mukherjee was critical of Rahul Gandhi after his "... complete nonsense" and "... should be torn up, thrown away" jibes about an ordinance by the then-Congress-led government in 2013, the former President's daughter, Sharmishtha Mukherjee told NDTV Wednesday.
In her book - "Pranab My Father" - Ms Mukherjee said that incident, and a few others, such as "frequent disappearing acts" and confusion over the scheduling of a meeting between the two, led her father to lose faith in Rahul Gandhi's ability to lead the party, never mind the country.
What Happened In 2013?
The ordinance - that sought to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that convicted MPs and MLAs would be disqualified instantly, without getting three months to appeal - was rubbished by Mr Gandhi, who said "... what the government is doing on the ordinance is wrong... it was a political decision..."
READ | Video: When Rahul Gandhi "Tore Up" Ordinance That May Have Spared Him
Ms Mukherjee told NDTV her father was not pleased. "Yes, I was the one who broke the news to him and he was very angry! His face became red and he was shouting, 'Who does he think he is?'" Ms Mukherjee, also an ex-Congress leader, said.
What Did Pranab Mukherjee Say?
"Later I realised baba agreed, in principle, with Rahul Gandhi. This could not be brought into force without wider consultation, and had to be passed as an Act and not Ordinance. He advised the government informally not to pursue this route. He also asked 'what is the tearing hurry?'"
Mr Mukherjee was, though, furious with Rahul Gandhi, his daughter said.
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"He was aghast at the manner of Rahul's protest... especially considering Manmohanji (then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) was abroad," she explained, "There was also the need to understand the impact on coalition partners. I think baba's faith in Rahul Gandhi started wavering from then."
Ms Mukherjee said incidents such as this left her father believing Mr Gandhi "was yet to mature politically". "... specially after 2014 (the Congress was routed by the BJP, winning just 44 seats), his frequent absences were not good. Baba believed he was losing the battle of perception," she said.
Pranab Mukherjee: The PM-In-Waiting
The book also discusses Mr Mukherjee's reactions to not being considered for the Prime Minister's post after the Congress' 2004 win. "I asked him one day, during UPA-I, 'Baba, do you want to be Prime Minister?' He said, 'Of course. Any politician worth his salt wants to... doesn't mean I will'."
"So I told him, 'Why don't you talk to Sonia Gandhi?'. Immediately he said, 'Talk about what?'"
Ms Mukherjee told NDTV her father then changed the topic. She later realised "he wanted to be... but knew his limitations - that he would never be No 1 amid trust issues with Sonia Gandhi".
READ | What Pranab Mukherjee Wrote About Rahul Gandhi In His Diaries
"He told me once, 'In the cutthroat world of politics, everyone safeguards their own interest and Sonia was maybe safeguarding her family's by making someone PM who would not challenge her.'"
"Would you challenge?" I asked, "Again he deftly changed the subject, said, "That is not the question. The issue is she thought I might'," Ms Mukherjee told NDTV.
Ms Mukherjee also said the fact he was passed over for the Prime Minister's post did not sour his relations with Mrs Gandhi or Dr Manmohan Singh, who went on to serve two terms.
Mr Mukherjee, she also said, may have been critical of Rahul Gandhi but would have "definitely appreciated Rahul's dedication, tenacity, and the outreach during the Bharat Jodo Yatra".
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