American President Ronald Reagan once said he had “no affection for these kiss-and-tell books" written by his ex-aides. Well nobody does. And the normally reticent and reluctant Sonia Gandhi stepped up with the promise that one day she will tell the ‘real’ truth in response to Natwar Singh’s ‘kisstory’.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi refuted the allegations made by former Congress leader Natwar Singh’s in a book and said she would write her own book to tell the truth.
“I will write my own book and then everyone will know the truth,” Sonia Gandhi told TV news channel NDTV. “The only way the truth will come out is if I write. I am serious about this,” she said.
Natwar Singh, a former minister in the UPA government, alleged in an interview that Sonia Gandhi’s decision not to take up the post of prime minister in 2004 was not because of an “inner voice” as she had famously said.
The former Congress leader said it was because of opposition from her son Rahul Gandhi, who was reportedly worried that she would be assassinated like his father Rajiv Gandhi and grandmother, Indira Gandhi, both former prime ministers.
The Congress president also said she is “used to such attacks”.
“I can’t be hurt I have seen my mother in law riddled by bullets, my husband dead…I am far from getting hurt with these things…Let them continue to do this it will not affect me…They can continue to do this if they so please,” she said.
Natwar Singh, 83, had to resign from the Congress-led coalition government in 2005 after allegations of corruption.
Sonia was backed by former prime minister Manmohan Singh who said “private conversations should not be misused for capital gains”.
Natwar also claimed that Sonia Gandhi had access to government files and these were taken to her by bureaucrat Pulok Chatterji, then in the Prime Minister’s Office
The charges were denied by Manmohan Singh who said no files were sent from the Prime Minister’s Office to Sonia Gandhi’s office. “Private conversations should not be misused for capital gains,” he said.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Natwar Singh was sensationalising “information shared to him on sensitive issues in keeping with his ministerial rank” for commercial ends.
“We clearly refute every allegation levelled by Natwar Singh in an interview ahead of his book’s release. This sensationalisation was necessary to ensure commercial success of his book,” Singhvi told media persons.
He said it may be noted that Natwar Singh had had an unceremonious exit from the Congress and his son is a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator in Rajasthan. “Natwar Singh has been trying to join the BJP directly or indirectly for some time. And these facts contradict the facts which he has mentioned in his book,” added Singhvi.
Natwar Singh in an interview on Headlines Today news channel over his forthcoming book “One Life is not enough: An autobiography” has revealed some of the aspects his book has covered.
Natwar Singh, who was external affairs minister in United Progressive Alliance-I, said that Manmohan Singh and Gandhi family friend Suman Dubey were present at May 18, 2004 meeting when Priyanka Gandhi revealed that her brother did not want their mother to be the prime minister.
Rahul Gandhi feared that “she would be killed like his father (Rajiv Gandhi) and grandmother (Indira Gandhi)”, he said. Both served as prime ministers and were assassinated.
Asked if Rahul Gandhi had set a 24 hour deadline for her mother, Natwar Singh said: “He was very adamant.”
“Rahul Gandhi was not in the room. Priyanka conveyed this,” he said.
In her address to Congress Parliamentary Party in May 2004 after the party-led UPA won the general elections, Sonia Gandhi had said that post of prime minister was not her aim and her “inner voice” tells her that she “must humbly decline this post”.
The 83-year-old Natwar Singh, who spent long years in Congress after retiring from the Indian Foreign Service, resigned as minister in the fallout of the Volcker report on the oil-for-food scam in Iraq in 2005. He later quit the Congress.
He said that Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka called on him at his house on May 7 this year to suggest that this story about Rahul Gandhi’s insistence on her not becoming prime minister should be kept out of the book.
Natwar Singh said that at this meeting, Sonia Gandhi embraced him, said “sorry” on listening to the travails he had gone through and noted that he was her closest friend to whom she had confided things she has never told either of her children.
He said he told her he refused to believe her claim that she was not aware of the troubles he had faced as “nothing happens in Congress without your knowledge, without your approval”.
Natwar Singh also said in the interview that former president Shankar Dayal Sharma was Sonia Gandhi’s first choice to become prime minister when the Congress came to power in 1991. After Sharma refused citing his age and health, P.V. Narasimha Rao was chosen to take up the mantle.
He also claimed that she had access to government files and these were taken to her by bureaucrat Pulok Chatterji. His claim is similar to the claim made by Manmohan Singh’s former media advisor Sanjaya Baru in his book “The Accidental Prime Minister”.
Singh, whose son is a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator from Rajasthan, rejected the charge that there might be bitterness and revenge in him.
He said he never spoke a word against Sonia Gandhi in public and it is important to tell facts as one knows them. “She is a public figure. She is a historic figure,” he said and noted that such figures have no privacy.
“I am a student of history… I am an honest person,” said Natwar Singh, who has many books to his credit.
Asked if his claim about Rahul Gandhi’s opposition being the reason behind her decision to not become the prime minister could be denied, Natwar Singh said his words could have been denied if Sonia and Priyanka had not come to meet him.
“They did not come to have coffee with me,” he said.
Congress general secretary Ajay Maken termed Natwar Singh’s interview as an attempt at sensationalisation. “It is ridiculous. These days it has become fashionable to sensationalize the contents of a book with the sole aim of ensuring better sales and free publicity. This is yet another such exercise. Any comment on it will be a futile exercise,” he said. (IANS)