Why should the Congress party be hitched to the Nehru-Gandhi family like train compartments to the engine was how the late P V Narasimha Rao reacted to the suggestion that Sonia Gandhi be made the Congress chief after the assassination of her husband Rajiv Gandhi in May, 1991.
This has been stated by veteran Congressman Arjun Singh in his soon-to-be-released posthumous autobiography ‘A Grain of Sand in the Hourglass of Time’.
Singh has said that he came face to face with the “ugly face of politics and was truly disgusted” after hearing Rao’s response to the suggestion that was made to him.
The 383-page book has been brought out by Hay House India with co-author Ashok Chopra saying the autobiography should be taken as “work in progress” because Singh passed away on March 4 last year while he was still to complete writing it.
Chopra said he has attempted to plug gaps in the text as faithfully as possible through interaction with his family members and some friends and associates.
Singh said that “On hearing our suggestion, Rao kept quiet for a few minutes with a grave expression on his face.
“Suddenly, he burst out in anger and virtually yelled out words to the effect that whether it was essential that the Congress Party should be treated like a train where the compartments have to be attached to an engine belonging to the Nehru-Gandhi family or were there other alternatives? I was dumbfounded by Rao’s outburst but kept quiet,” he said.
The then AICC treasurer Sitaram Kesri, however, pursued the matter further and contended that it would be in the fitness of things if “we were to offer the post of the Congress president to Sonia first”.
The book claims that Rao realised that he had perhaps spoken too much too soon and had exposed his anti-Nehru feelings very clearly.
He, therefore, thoughtfully queried, “There is no harm in making the suggestion, but will she accept it? We had no immediate answer to his query except that we would have to approach Sonia Gandhi and seek her reaction.”
In this regard, Singh said the first Congressman, Vincent George, M L Fotedar and he himself had approached Kesri.
Kesri, an old-timer from Bihar, was not surprised at their choice of candidate and agreed to support Sonia, “although I did discern a faint hesitation in his acceptance”.