Even as many in the Congress still seem to be in denial about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and the fact that he has earned his victories, former President late Pranab Mukherjee in his memoir clearly says that Modi earned and achieved his success.
Recently, excerpts from ‘The Presidential Years’, the fourth and concluding volume of Mukherjee’s memoirs, have started doing the rounds. There are many interesting excerpts that show the cordial relationship of the former head of the state with Prime Minister Modi.
Mukherjee and Modi come from completely different ideological backgrounds, but it is clear that Mukherjee had immense respect for Modi and his passion for the country.
Mukherjee is a politician who gave Narendra Modi his due respect for the victory in the 2014 general elections. Even as many in the Congress still seem to be in denial about Modi’s popularity and the fact that he has earned his victories, Mukherjee clearly says that Modi earned and achieved his success.
“Modi, on the other hand, became PM through popular choice after leading the BJP to a historic victory in 2014. He is a politician to the core and had been named the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate as the party went into campaign mode. He was then Gujarat’s CM and had built an image that seemed to click with the masses. He has earned and achieved the prime ministership,” Mukherjee writes.
The former President reiterates that he appreciated the counsel and advice which was offered to him by PM Modi in his quest to uphold the Constitution, clearly shining a light upon Modi’s own commitment to upholding the Constitution.
He also singles our Modi’s passion and energy for driving transformational changes across the country.
“As I had said on oath, I strived to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution, not just in word but also in spirit. In this task, I greatly benefited from the advice and cooperation extended to me by Prime Minister Modi at every step. With passion and energy, he is driving transformational changes in the country. I will carry with me fond memories of our association and his warm and courteous behaviour,” Mukherjee says in the book.
One of the first meetings between Modi and Mukherjee mentions how closely the Prime Minister followed the statements and articles by Mukherjee and maintained that he too was following the sentiments and wishes of the Indian President without caring for their political affiliations. The same passage also reflects how there was no hurry with Modi to assume a position of power and that he wanted to discharge his existing duties in an appropriate manner.
“I congratulated Modi, who requested for some time to speak with me. Using a newspaper clipping that had reported on my earlier speech hoping for a politically stable mandate, he asserted that he had achieved the objective of a clear majority that I had envisaged. Thereafter, he requested for a week’s time before the swearing-in ceremony. I was surprised at his request. He insisted that he needed time to address the issue of his successor in his home state, Gujarat,” as per the book.
In the beginning parts of the book itself, the former President notes Modi’s pragmatism and enthusiasm to build relations within the South East Asian region and also his zeal for continuous on-the-job learning.
It is clear that Modi on several occasions took the advice of the erstwhile President and initiated a process to factor in his insights into policy decisions as well.
“Modi then sought my advice on his intent to invite all the heads of state/government of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries for the swearing-in ceremony. I complimented him on the idea and advised him to discuss the same with the head of the Intelligence Bureau, owing to the enormous security risks facing leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. I have had very cordial relations with PM Modi during my tenure. However, I did not hesitate to give my advice on matters of policy during our meetings. There were several occasions when he echoed concerns that I had voiced. I also believe that he has managed to grasp the nuances of foreign policy quickly,” Mukherjee says in the book.
Mukherjee also noted the successful efforts for inclusive growth. It is clear that political differences did not come in the way of rightful appreciation of the inclusive growth measures taken by the Modi government. He also mentions that there was optimism in the air. He writes about how he appreciated the steps taken for inclusive growth as part of his speech at the beginning of the Budget Session in 2015.
“My speech in Parliament at the start of the Budget Session in 2015 reflected the promises the Modi government had made to the people and the steps it had taken in the direction of inclusive growth. The government had taken charge barely a year ago and there was optimism and trust in the air.
“Underlining the new slogan of the regime, I said that ‘the fundamental tenet of my government is sabka saath, sabka vikas (support from all, development for all).’ The session was especially important because it was then that the Modi government presented its first full-year Union Budget,” he says in the book.
Mukherjee, as a career politician, also recognised the mandate that is wielded through India’s electorate. He understood the high level of hard work and dedication that Modi brought to his electioneering.
In his book, he noted that a popular mandate is never something that can be achieved just by chance — it is something that has to be earned.
He writes that he was initially skeptical about Piyush Goyal’s optimism that the BJP would win over 265 seats in the 2014 elections. However, he took this optimism seriously when he saw Narendra Modi’s gruelling electioneering schedule.
“However, I took him seriously when he gave me Modi’s detailed electioneering schedule, which was not only gruelling but also painstaking. It covered the entire length and breadth of the country,” Mukherjee says.
Further, in 2019, Mukherjee appears surprised that Modi formed a government with his pre-poll allies despite winning a comfortable majority and coming back with bigger numbers. In a way, this also shows appreciation for the way Modi keeps his commitments.
Through the various mentions of strengthened bilateral and multinational relations, Mukherjee noted that these visits actually helped to achieve a better global image for India.
He also notes that even when PM Modi did not have much experience when it came to international relations, he found his own out-of-the-box niche.
“It was evident that one could expect the unexpected from Modi, because he had come with no ideological foreign policy baggage. He was to continue with these surprises. PM Modi has desired to improve the strained relations of the past. India also wants to see that the Indian Ocean Region does not become a playground for big powers,” as per the book excerpts.
The book details what Modi told Mukherjee about why he should be present at the joint session of the Parliament at midnight, especially to address the occasion.
This is a glimpse of Modi’s personal touch, something which made Mukherjee agree.
“Coming back to my residence, I had a telephonic conversation with him, during which he insisted that as an individual, I had done my best for three-and-a-half years to get the bill passed, and as President of the Republic, the deal would be approved with my signature of assent. It would be a historic coincidence if I addressed the joint session of Parliament assembled at midnight at the Central Hall on 30 June. I agreed,” Mukherjee says in the book.