New Delhi: Pranab Mukherjee contested the 1980 Lok Sabha elections much against the wishes of Indira Gandhi who gave him a "vociferous dressing down" for an "interminable span of time" after his defeat but he made a dramatic entry into the Union Cabinet despite the loss.
Such was the faith in him that the late Prime Minister Gandhi also made him the Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha over the claims of other senior contenders including the late AP Sharma.
Now President, Mukherjee trashes as rumours stemming from "fertile imaginations" that he was included in the Cabinet because Indira Gandhi wanted to have a team of 22, an astrologically auspicious number, after Bhagawat Jha Azad had refused to be sworn in.
Mukherjee recollects all these events of the days when Indira Gandhi returned to power in January, 1980 in his just -released book, "The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years" brought out by Rupa Publications.
"Indira Gandhi headed into the 1980 elections strong and confident as ever. While I was all for choosing core and loyal Congressmen to contest, Indira Gandhi advised me to 'choose people who could run the government'--so confident was she of her electoral success.
"She had strongly advised me against contesting the Lok Sabha elections in 1980, but gave in at my insistence. I contested the election from Bolpur constituency, and was defeated by a margin of 68,629 votes... The decisive vote demoralised me."