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‘Rajiv Gandhi backed Chandra Shekhar over Pranab Mukherjee as PM’

Pranab Mukherjee was favoured by late President R Venkataraman to be the Prime Minister after the fall of V P Singh government in 1990 but Rajiv Gandhi thought otherwise.

This has come to light in a book entitled, “The Chinar Leaves”, written by veteran Congress leader and close aide of the Gandhi family M L Fotedar, who claims that when he met President Venkataraman to discuss the political situation in the wake of V P Singh’s resignation in 1990, the President told him emphatically that Rajiv should support Mukherjee.

“I met President Venkataraman and discussed the political situation with him. I told him that under the present circumstances only the Congress Party could take along with it every section of society and provide a strong and stable government.

“I requested him to invite Rajivji to head the next government as he was the leader of the single largest party in the Lok Sabha. On this the President directed me, with an emphasis of authority, that I may put it to Rajiv Gandhi that if he supported Mr Pranab Mukherjee to be Prime Minister, he (the President) would administer the oath of office to him that same evening,” Fotedar says in his book.

The HarperCollins publication, due for release soon, also highlights how Mukherjee along with P V Narasimha Rao and Venkataraman were once considered by Indira Gandhi as those who could take over the Congress party after her until of course she decided to bring her son Rajiv into politics as her political heir.

Fotedar, currently member of the Congress Working Committee, writes that then President Venkatraman’s personal choice for the PM’s position left him surprised and he took time to recover his poise to ask the President, “Sir, how can that be done?”. Hearing this, the President said again with an aura of authority that he should inform Rajiv about his choice.

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