Sonia declined PM post in 1999, claims book

Sonia declined PM post in 1999, claims book

Sonia Gandhi would not have become prime minister in 1999 even if the Congress were able to garner support after the collapse of A B Vajpayee-led NDA regime, a new book has claimed.

It also suggested that the “over-enthusiasm” of aides like M L Fotedar to get letters of support in Sonia’s name led to the collapse of the party's efforts to cobble up support to form government, as leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav raked up the foreign-origin issue.

Sonia's decision not to don the mantle in 2004, listening to her “inner voice”, has become part of political folklore now, but “My Years with Rajiv and Sonia”, a book by former home secretary R D Pradhan, who was handpicked by Rajiv, throws more light into the inside political story of the times.

Pradhan quotes prominent journalist Vir Sanghvi as telling him that Sonia had named Manmohan Singh as her choice for the prime ministerial post when she met then President K R Narayanan in 1999.

Sonia’s move may not come as a surprise, with Pradhan, who became a close aide of her, claiming that Rajiv had zeroed in on the economist as his finance minister if the Congress was voted back to power in 1991. The selection of Singh as finance minister is usually credited to P V Narasimha Rao, but the book claims Rao was told about Rajiv's choice after his assassination, and he accepted it, to their joy.

Recounting the political churning after AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa withdrew support to the Vajpayee-led government, Pradhan claimed he had offered suggestions to Sonia in a draft, which was marked for her “eyes only”.An hour before the meeting at Rashtrapati Bhavan on April 21, 1999, Pradhan has written, Fotedar and he met Sonia to “carry out a rehearsal” as to “what she should and should not say” to the president.

Pradhan wrote, “Fotedar looked rather grim. Sonia, looking relaxed and smiling, told me the draft was all right but she had made a small addition. She had decided not to offer to lead the government.”

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