Days before the end of his tenure, President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday spoke candidly about his relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During the launch of his photo essay, President Pranab Mukherjee: A Statesman, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mukherjee said divergences with Modi did not hamper the President-Prime Minister relationship.
“It did not affect the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister, between the titular head and the actual head of the administration,” Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee said at times he would seek clarifications from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who was present on the occasion and has often articulated the government’s position on various issues. Jaitley often convinced him like an “able and effective advocate” that he is. The President said he can claim with confidence that “the functioning of the government was never disturbed, never stopped, never delayed”.
Modi, who launched the book, said he was fortunate to have got a chance to work with Mukherjee. Modi said he was fortunate he could hold Mukherjee’s hand while trying to settle in Delhi, and that there was never a meeting between them in the last three years when the President did not treat him like a son. “I am saying this from deep within.
Like a father caring for his son...,” he said, turning emotional.
“‘Modiji, you will have to rest for half a day,’ Pranabda would say. ‘Why are you running around so much? You must cut down on your programmes. You will have to take care of your health.’ It was during the Uttar Pradesh polls that he told me that winning and losing happen all the time but health must not suffer,” the Prime Minister said.
Mukherjee is an inspirational figure, he said, as he recalled his association with people from different walks of life who made an impact on him. Mukherjee, too, expressed his “deep gratitude and appreciation” for Modi.
While talking about the book, Modi said the book shines a spotlight on the human side of the President, going beyond protocol. “Through the photographs in the book, people would know their President laughs like a child. They will also see the self-confidence of our President in front of foreign dignitaries, however, big in size they may be,” Modi said in a lighter vein, praising Pranab, a man of short height.