National

‘Sonia’s life is a Greek tragedy on a vast Indian stage’

| Updated on November 25, 2017 Published on August 01, 2014

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Book One Life is Not Enough, An Autobiography Publisher Rupa PublicationsPrice ₹500

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Extracts from K Natwar Singh’s One Life is Not Enough, An Autobiography

…A meeting of the Congress leaders was called. If my memory serves me right, those present were Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh, Shivraj Patil, Ghulam Nabi Azad, ML Fotedar and I. None except Manmohan Singh and I knew why the meeting was called. Sonia softly announced that she had asked Manmohan Singh to become Prime Minister. Manmohan Singh’s immediate response was, ‘Madam, I do not have the mandate’.

Powerful Americans

…In the evening, I met Manmohan Singh. He had fought hard for me to get the MEA and, till the last moment, the American lobby had allegedly tried to derail my appointment. Manmohan was apprehensive and mentioned how powerful the Americans were and that perhaps they could go to any extent to destabilise certain countries, including India.

The prima donna

Sonia’s public image is not flattering. To an extent, she has herself to blame for it. She never lets her guard down, never gives away what is in her mind. Obsessively secretive and suspicious, she evokes awe, not admiration.

Her remarkable life reminds one of a Greek tragedy enacted on a vast Indian stage. She is every biographer’s dream. And while several have taken a shot at telling her tale, their efforts have been found lacking… From the day she set foot on Indian soil she has been treated like royalty; she has behaved like a prima donna. Over the years, she has evolved from being a diffident, nervous, shy woman to an ambitious authoritarian and stern leader.

Her displeasure strikes fear among Congressmen…Her hold over the Congress party is total; firmer and more durable than even that of Jawaharlal Nehru. Under her, dissent is smothered, free discussion fenced in.

Silence is used as a weapon and every subtle gesture is a message, an icy stare a warning… From her privileged perch, she reigns and rules… Beneath all that posturing an ordinary and insecure person emerges. Her capriciousness is lauded. A fine-tuned personality cult is promoted. Politics has coarsened her.

Abdul Kalam’s hair style

…Then suddenly, APJ Abdul Kalam’s name began doing the rounds. Kalam, who was not even considered a dark horse, finally made it to Rashtrapati Bhavan. He did not seek the office; the office sought him. Before APJ Abdul Kalam took his oath as President, Pramod Mahajan, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, called on him. He requested Dr Kalam to get one or two closed-collar suits and modify his hairstyle. Dr Kalam agreed to the coats, but the hairstyle was non-negotiable.

Nuking the nuclear deal

…After our meeting, Condoleezza (Rice) had called the President, telling him that Manmohan Singh couldn’t make the deal happen. She wanted to meet Manmohan but he refused to see her. She then called me and asked me why he was being recalcitrant… On my return to Delhi, I saw Sonia Gandhi, who was far from approving. ‘Natwar, how could you of all people agree to this?’ she asked.

The Ministry ‘mole’

…Once the UPA came to power, it was widely known that Sonia very discreetly monitored the functioning of the most important ministries in the government, displaying a Machiavellian side to her character.

Even mine was not spared. There was a mole on my staff feeding false information to 10 Janpath… On 22 February, 2005, I drove to 10 Janpath to accompany Sonia to her meeting with Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai. The moment I entered the meeting room, she said, ‘I shall not be taken for granted. There will come a time when I will do something unpredictable’. Then followed the outrageous remark, ‘you are getting involved in defence deals’…

There followed another preposterous insinuation: ‘There is a delegation from Africa and you have passed a file on some defence deals to Pranab Mukherjee’. I said I had only spoken to him. ‘Do my signatures appear on the file?’ I enquired. She had no answer, and never referred to the matter again. Obviously, the mole was at work. It seems that she had access to confidential information.

Published on August 01, 2014
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