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As Pranab Mukherjee heads to RSS meet, his secret role emerges

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By EMN Updated: May 29, 2018 11:45 pm
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Political leaders suggest the former president could even be a potential prime ministerial candidate in 2019

From left to right: LK Advani, Pranab Mukherjee, Naveen Patnaik , Deve Gowda and Sitaram Yechury.

Dimapur, May 29 (EMN): The former president of India, Pranab Mukherjee is quietly emerging as the key figure behind the emergence of an alternative political front in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, according to an NDTV report on Tuesday.

“He is a former President but with the invite to be chief guest at an RSS event next month, Pranab Mukherjee has sent out signals that he is not a write-off just yet. While many are stumped in the Congress party, the move is seen as a clear indication that Citizen Mukherjee — as he calls himself on Twitter — is asserting an identity independent of the Congress, his party of over five decades.

“NDTV has spoken to a wide range of politicians across party lines who confirmed that the 82-year-old is playing a significant role in bringing non-Congress, non-BJP leaders together to form an alternative front ahead of 2019,” the report read.

It cited ‘some leaders’ who went as far as to say that the former president may even be a potential prime ministerial candidate in 2019.

“It all goes back to a low-key meeting held in Bhubaneswar in January at the home of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the chief of the Biju Janata Dal. Unlike other high-profile dinners hosted recently by UPA chief Sonia Gandhi or NCP leader Sharad Pawar, this one was revealed in a tweet showing Pranab Mukherjee, Janata Dal Secular’s Deve Gowda, Left leader Sitaram Yechury and BJP veteran LK Advani at lunch with Mr Patnaik.

“The chief minister tweeted simply, ‘It was a great pleasure to have the company.’ But sources told NDTV it was one of the first meetings that set the ball rolling on a potential third front. Many others say the starting point was a much earlier meeting at Rashtrapati Bhawan last year when Chief Minister Patnaik had lunch with Pranab Mukherjee and then they dialled another Third Front player, Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.”

It reported that ‘key leaders in the Congress, BJP, Trinamool and the BJD confirmed the developments’ though none of the leaders NDTV spoke to wanted to speak on record  ‘since it involves a former president’.

“He is very political and he may be the only one with the stature to match Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said a BJD parliamentarian. “And he is open to playing a key role as a non-NDA pole position,” he added.

Mukherjee being passed over for the post of prime minister in 2004 is not just stuff of political commentary but is also documented in his book The Coalition Years, in which he talks his disappointment when he thought Congress president Sonia Gandhi would choose him for the job and send Manmohan Singh to Rashtrapati Bhawan (as president).

“The veteran Congressman had to spend some time apart after a falling out with Rajiv Gandhi after Indira Gandhi’s death in 1984. Many say it was prompted by the fact that when Rajiv Gandhi asked who was most senior in the party to take over after his mother’s assassination, Mukherjee offered his own name,” according to the report.

“It is Pranab Mukherjee who held Bengal politics together for decades and it is because of him that the Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee evolved,” said a senior Bengal leader, explaining the bond between Mamata Banerjee and the former president.

“In 2012, when his name was first proposed for President, it was Ms Banerjee who swung it for him, backed also by the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. Significantly, Ms Banerjee along with MPs of other parties including from the Shiv Sena marched in protest together to the Rashtrapati Bhavan on 16 November 2016, to make a statement against demonetisation.

“A senior BJP minister who is tracking these developments with interest goes so far as to say that Mamata Banerjee’s recent overtures to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) of K Chandrasekhara Rao are also backed by Pranab Mukherjee.”

“Whatever Mamata is doing is on behalf of Pranab Mukherjee,” he said. “They are trying to create a front that will determine India’s future in the next five years. The idea is that one of them will be Prime Minister.” The NDTV tried to get an official comment from his office but they were unavailable, it added.

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By EMN Updated: May 29, 2018 11:45:20 pm