Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday that ex-President Pranab Mukherjee had every reason to be aggrieved at being ignored for prime ministership despite being more qualified but he knew "I had no choice" in the matter, and that smoothened their relationship.
At the launch of the former President's memoirs, The Coalition Years, which brought together key Opposition leaders on the same stage, Dr. Singh described Mr. Mukherjee as one of the greatest living Congressmen and parliamentarians, and recalled their association in the Finance Ministry since the early 1970s.
Dr. Singh also said he was a politician by accident while Mr. Mukherjee was a politician by choice. This is the third and last of the former President's autobiographies where he describes the 43 years he has spent as a worker of the Congress party. "I became a politician by accident when PV Narasimha Rao invited me to become Finance Minister". "Pranab ji was most qualified and had every reason to believe that he would be Prime Minister".
"The prevalent expectation was that I would be the next choice for prime minister after Sonia Gandhi declined".
Mukherjee also said that when he declined to join the government headed by Manmohan Singh, Sonia insisted on his being a part of it as he would be "vital to its functioning and also be of support of Singh". He said running the coalition government seemed hard but everything worked out smoothly.
"So before the elections, we have got this book on coalition governments which may come handy", he said.
Speaking at the event, Mr Yadav said that a book about coalitions is very useful in the present context.