Natwar Singh: On the road to perdition?

Natwar Singh’s revelations spell more trouble for the Congress

It nukes Sonia’s halo of sacrifice

If Sanjaya Baru’s bomb ahead of the Lok Sabha polls had exposed the helplessness of Prime Minis-ter Manmohan Singh during the United Progressive Alliance regime, K. Natwar Singh’s recent nuke has not only confirmed the serious allegations made by Dr Singh’s ex-media adviser but also revealed the truth behind the “inner voice” which sought to lend a halo of sainthood and sacrifice to the Congress president.
Coming close on the heels of the National Herald case, the former Union minister’s detailed account of the inner working of the Congress under the leadership of its Italian-born leader has come as a double whammy for the beleaguered party, which is facing dissent from Haryana to Maharashtra and Assam in the aftermath of the Modi tsunami.
The nation has now been told that it was fear for life and not sacrifice of power which the nation witnessed in 2004.
One is reminded of Rahul Gandhi’s words about his mother’s advice — power is poison, keep away from it. The reason for Mr Gandhi’s reluctance to either become his party’s prime ministerial candidate or the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party after the Lok Sabha poll debacle can now be traced to the former party insider and close family aide’s revelation that Mrs Gandhi did not take the plunge as Mr Gandhi was vehemently opposed to his mother becoming Prime Minister since he feared she would lose her life just as his grandmother and father had.
However, from Mr Singh’s account, it becomes apparent that the Nehru-Gandhis seem to have a problem with power only when you occupy it, not when you remote control it — authority without accountability, power sans responsibility.
Echoing Baru’s book, The Accidental Prime Minister, Mr Singh, in what is arguably one of the most scathing critiques of Mrs Gandhi, has claimed that 10, Janpath was the real power centre of the UPA government. “Sonia very discreetly monitored the functioning of the most important ministries in the government, display-ing a Machiavellian side to her character,” he says.
While Mrs Gandhi’s green signal to key government decisions were an open secret during the United Progresstive Allilace regime, the confirmation of rumours that an extraconstitutional autho-rity had direct access to classified documents, including matters pertaining to national security, nuclear policy, etc., is a matter of serious, if not grave, concern.
Mr Singh, indeed, hits the bull’s eye when he lists as Mrs Gandhi’s achievements the reduction of one of the “greatest political parties” of the world into a “rump” of 44 members in the Lok Sabha.
Undoubtedly, Mr Singh’s autobiography does smack of a sense of hurt and humiliation, but that in no way dilutes the critical contents pertaining to governance and extraconstitutional influences over the UPA regime.
While it is for the government of the day to ponder over whether the revelations warrant a probe into violations of the Official Secrets Act, it is high time the leaders and workers of the country’s oldest political party, which played a critical role in the freedom struggle, introspect whether they wish to survive as lackeys of a family enterprise or want to return the Congress to its days of glory with a democratic, patriotic and selfless leadership.

K.G. Suresh is senior fellow and editor, Vivekananda International Foundation

A spiced up, one-sided version

If a spiced up, one-sided version of events by a disgruntled insider, K. Nat-war Singh, who lost favour with his benefactors in the Congress constitutes “revelations” in a book authored, not just to boost sales but the fledgling career of his son, who is coincidentally a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator, then there should be no reason for us to deny similar “gospel” status to a book with greater factual insights, namely The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra, that clinically exposes the convoluted process through which the former Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was declared to have not been culpable in the grisly 2002 riots through its “breathtaking investigation” by a far more credible author, Manoj Mitta. Nor should the BJP have a moment of doubt in accepting as true, “revelations” by a former Modi loyalist, Gordhan Zadaphia, who as minister of state home, testified how his former boss orchestrated the 2002 genocide and spied on his own colleagues.
But let’s not make this about the convenient double standards of the BJP, which today finds a hero in the very same Mr Singh whose resignation they demanded by stalling Parliament in 2005 post his indictment in the Volcker report. Two “revelations” by Mr Singh have gained most traction. Firstly, that it wasn’t “Sonia’s inner voice” but Rahul Gandhi’s understandable fear that she’d be killed, that dissuaded her from taking up the Prime Minister’s post in 2004. Mr Singh claims he learnt about this on May 18, 2004, when this scene played out and that’s when Mrs Gandhi decided against becoming PM. But in another book, My Years with Rajiv and Sonia, by another confidante, R.D. Pradhan, released long ago, this claim is belied when he states that on May 17 itself Mrs Gandhi had decided against taking up the top job.
He doesn’t mention any other reasons that influenced Mrs Gandhi except for her own sense of judgment. So, which book should we believe?
The other serious “revelation” involves the taking of government files to Mrs Gandhi, confirmed by another “tell-all book” by the former media adviser to Manmohan Singh, Sanjaya Baru, which gave the BJP some timely political ammunition during the election campaign.
But one wonders what prevents the BJP government from following up on these allegations that constitute a grave offence under the Official Secrets Act, notwithstanding the fact that the two witnesses to this “crime” offer no explanation for their inordinate delay in revealing this, except of course the logical conclusion that they were too busy then enjoying the spoils of power for their conscience to be inconvenienced by this alleged constitutional impropriety. Mr Singh, a former minister, should perhaps also enlighten us about his own ministry’s files that he carried to Mrs Gandhi. Perhaps that could form part of the sequel Mr Singh plans to pen. While the jury may be out on whether “One Life is not Enough”, it certainly seems that for the pent-up frustrations of a persona non-grata one book is not enough. And before my friends in the BJP, overlooking Congress’ categorical denial of these allegations, read Mrs Gandhi’s measured silence and resolve to disclose the truth in her own book and conjure up rumoured secret visits as some admission of guilt, may I remind them of their own PM’s long silence on Snoopgate and alleged rumours of Ved Pratap Vaidik carrying Mr Modi’s blessings whilst meeting Hafiz Saeed.

Shehzad Poonawalla is a lawyer and activist

( Source : dc correspondent )
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