Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former President Pranab Mukherjee had a “strange” relationship – the BJP leader would always touch the Congress veteran’s feet as a mark of respect – but it was one marked by “honesty and openness”, the late Mr Mukherjee’s daughter told NDTV Wednesday.
Sharmishtha Mukherjee, the author of a new book – “Pranab My Father” – told NDTV her father, when elected President, was very clear about his duties and responsibilities and told the Prime Minister that while they belonged to different ideologies, he would not interfere in governance.
“I think that was something very strange considering their different ideologies. But, I think, the relationship actually goes back many years… even before Mr Modi became Gujarat Chief Minister.”
“He (PM Modi) told me that he used to come to Delhi then, as an ordinary party worker, for various events and that he used to meet baba (Mr Mukherjee) on morning walks. He told me baba would always talk very nicely to him and that he would always touch baba‘s feet,” Ms Mukherjee said.
“I thought this was a very interesting entry in baba‘s diaries…”
Ms Mukherjee, also a former Congress leader, spoke of another entry in her late father’s diaries.
“When Mr Modi, as Gujarat Chief Minister, came to meet the President, for the first time, baba wrote, ‘He is a bitter critic of the Congress government and its policies… but in private he always touches my feet. He says it makes him happy. I do not understand why…’,” she told NDTV.
Ms Mukherjee said the Prime Minister had confirmed this anecdote to her.
“The relationship between the President and the Prime Minister was not just built on personal regard. As President, baba believed he had a responsibility also to not interfere with the elected government.”
“So, in the very first meeting (in those roles), he very candidly told Mr Modi, ‘We belong to two different ideologies but the people have given you a mandate. I will not interfere with governance… that is your job. But if you need help in any constitutional matter, I will be there.”
“I was told about this by Mr Modi himself, who said ‘For dada (older brother) to say this was a big thing. From the beginning there was openness and honesty between them,” she said.
That, however, did not mean the late President did not question the Prime Minister on key issues, including the government’s tendency to bypass Parliament and pass ordinances, Ms Mukherjee said.
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First appeared on www.ndtv.com