Pranab was better qualified to be PM, says Manmohan

India Today magazine cover

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said that the former president and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee was better qualified to become the prime minister in 2004, but quickly added that he "had no choice" in the matter. "But he also knows that I had no choice in the matter", Dr. Singh remarked, evoking laughter. When Mr. Yechury described Pranab Da, as he fondly called the former President, as a "man with an elephant's memory", Congress president Sonia Gandhi sitting in the front row of the audience corrected it to "two elephants' memory". Speaking at the function, the former PM said, "There are many reasons why Mukherjee would have been a better PM. didn't have a choice".

Mukherjee recalled how, barring a few years in between, the Congress pulled on its own strength before the coalition era came in 1996 when Deve Gowda became the Prime Minister followed by I.K. Gujral and then NDA led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In the book, Mr Mukherjee says he had a "vague" feeling that Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi wanted to nominate Manmohan Singh as the UPA presidential candidate in 2012 and make him the Prime Minister. Dr Singh said that Pranab Mukherjee was a politician by choice and it came naturally to him. "This expectation was possibly based on the fact that I had extensive experience in government", he wrote.

Speaking at the event, Mr Yadav said that a book about coalitions is very useful in the present context. He said running the coalition government seemed hard but everything worked out smoothly.

Singh said with their relation smoothened, they ran the government as a cohesive team.

While Sonia Gandhi and Rahul did not speak nor sit on the dais, a number of leaders including CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI Secretary Sudhakar Reddy, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav and DMK leader Kanimozhi spoke.

The book launch saw Opposition parties coming together.

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