NEW DELHI: President Pranab Mukherjee ushered in his 79th birthday in style with the launch of the first part of his political memoirs, The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years , the period that saw his rise in New Delhi’s powerful political circles.
The Rupa-published book has been making more news for its exclusive launch vehicle, amazon.in, than for what the President has penned down taking help from the copious diaries he has maintained throughout his career.
On Thursday, after the formal birthday launch of the book, it was revealed that for the most controversial decision (Emergency) of his political mentor Indira Gandhi he has blamed then West Bengal Chief Minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray more.
Giving a partial clean chit to Indira for not quite understanding the constitutional implications of the declaration of Emergency that temporarily brought the shutters down on Indian democracy, Mukherjee writes Ray advised her wrongly. He then goes on to unsparingly point out how Ray turned renegade and before the Shah Commission disowned the advice he gave to then Prime Minister and how he left the Congress thereafter.
While Mukherjee was still a junior minister in those turbulent ‘misguided’ days of an ‘avoidable’ misadventure, Ray with his clipped English and elitist ways was one of Indira’s favouite CMs-cum-advisor. Those familiar with Bengal politics know, Mukherjee and Ray were no friends, nor were they rivals.
Mukherjee, who was glowingly feted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday morning for his ‘fine intellect, sharp mind, deep knowledge, insight and unparalleled political experience’, may not quite like what the President has written about then opposition leader Jai Parkash Narayan or JP in his book.
In the course of the all-out agitation that JP launched in the ‘70s that ultimately unseated Indira, he had developed a close association with the Jan Sangh leaders. So JP is close to BJP’s political iconography.
But Mukherjee, the unabashed Indira acolyte, is quite critical of how the JP movement panned out, in a way suggesting that he forced Indira’s hands into declaring Emergency.
However those who are looking for controversies in the book culled from Mukherjee’s life experiences and political innings will be a bit disappointed. They may have to wait for the next volumes, two more in the pipeline, or another author who’s writing his biography.