Pranab Mukherjee is a former President of India who chronicled his political experiences in a series of memoirs. The Coalition Years – 1996-2012 is one in the series with some profound revelations about his party and political colleagues.
Pranab Mukherjee has been in in Indian politics for four decades as a parliamentarian and a key member of the Congress Party that ruled India for six decades. Many in his political party dominated by Nehru-Gandhi family believed Mukherjee was the man who should have become Prime Minister. When it became clear that the party leadership would not give him that job, he accepted the Presidency.
The years 1996 through 2012 were a very dramatic period in Indian politics. It was the time when the Congress Party’s leadership (Sonia Gandhi) decided to forge alliance with other regional parties to challenge the growing influence of BJP, the current ruling party of India. Pranab Mukherjee was the only leader who dared to voice his opposition to this decision. Congress lost prestige and influence as a result of ignoring him.
In his preface he has shown concerns about Sonia Gandhi and his successor and son, Rahul Gandhi ascending to the throne of the party in a muffled tone. He is open about his differences with Manmohan Singh (then Prime Minister of India) and with Sonia Gandhi on their approach to politics and economics.
He has openly criticized Sonia Gandhi (a Roman Catholic of dubious reputation) for her role in imprisoning the Kanchi Shankaracharya (equivalent to a Hindu Pope) for a prolonged time stating that “if Indian secularism didn’t allow for the arrest of a Muslim cleric before Eid, the same principle should apply for Hindu priests as well.”
The Coalition Years is written in a lucid English covering the years in turmoil – a good read for history enthusiasts. – Reviewed by Musafir