On the evening of August 9, 2011 Indian news TV made history of sorts. It was the second time that evening that Top Cop Sanjiv Bhatt appeared on Arnab Goswami’s Kangaroo court on TimesNow. Almost as if to tell Arnab ‘Meet my lawyer, don’t ask silly questions’. That’s right, Sanjiv Bhatt brought his lawyer along with him. Arnab must have gawked in surprise. Ever since that episode I have referred to the mouth as Justice Arnab. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam (APJ) must have similarly gawked when Sonia Gandhi (SG) had walked in to stake the Congress’ claim to form the govt after the 2004 elections. Per APJ’s account, they exchanged pleasantries and then SG must have said: ‘Hello Mr.President, meet our new Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’. Here was APJ, all ready with even a letter typed out appointing SG as PM and suddenly she brings in MMS. Damn! Now that letter had to be retyped! So reveals APJ’s latest book ‘Turning Points’. I have to agree that the decision to appoint MMS as PM is indeed a turning point. India’s steady slide down the drain since he became PM will be recorded in history as the greatest disaster.
And so, as the news of excerpts from APJ’s book broke all the news channels and newspapers had mostly only one page to read; no.135. Hindustan Trolls proudly flashed the headline 'Sonia Gandhi could've been PM if she wished'. That wasn’t what APJ said but the delight of Mr.Smirk can be seen in his tweet of June 29. HT quotes: “Kalam reveals that if Gandhi wanted to become PM in 2004, he would have had no option but to appoint her". What HT and other media outlets are not decoding is why APJ is saying he would have had “no option”. Ideally, for an elected and deserving candidate the president should have been saying ‘I would have been happy to appoint her PM but she did not stake a claim’. The loud noises in the MSM will not elaborate the fact that using the term ‘no option’ clearly indicates that APJ was perhaps not in favour of SG but had she so desired he would have been compelled to appoint her PM. That if he did indeed have an option he would have thought otherwise. So we must come to believe that SG, in the true tradition of the Nehru-Gandhi clan, made a supreme sacrifice.
This is what SG said in May 2004 after MMS was proposed as PM: “I was always certain that if ever I found myself in the position that I am in today, I would follow my own inner voice. Today, that voice tells me I must humbly decline this post….. Power in itself has never attracted me, nor has position been my goal. My aim has always been to defend the secular foundation of our nation and the poor of our country - the creed sacred to Indiraji and Rajivji”. Yeah, you see, in a country like ours the only sacrifices have come from the Nehru-Gandhi clan because they were assassinated. Others like L.B. Shastri, Subhash Chandra Bose, Madhavrao Scindia, Rajesh Pilot and many others – they just died. It’s only when somebody from the ‘clan’ dies, it’s a sacrifice. It’s only when somebody from the clan declines the PM post that it’s a sacrifice. JP could have been PM in 1977 but his was not a sacrifice.And, of course, events from May 2004 have substantially established that SG does not seek power. Haven't they?
APJ actually writes: “While this communication was in progress, I had a number of emails and letters coming from individuals, organisations and parties that I should not allow Mrs Sonia Gandhi to become the Prime Minister of our country. I had passed on these mails and letters to various agencies in the government for their information without making any remarks. During this time there were many political leaders who came to meet me to request me not to succumb to any pressure and appoint Mrs Gandhi as the Prime Minister, a request that would not have been constitutionally tenable. If she had made any claim for herself I would have had no option but to appoint her”. I guess the media and Congress party wants us to now believe that all these objections had nothing to do with SG declining to be PM.
My deep admiration and respect for APJ tells me he would do nothing but tell the truth. But I have to wonder if the entire truth has been laid out before us. That for three days since May 15, 2004 no one came forward to stake a claim to form a govt is mentioned by APJ. It is during this period one can assume he would have received all the objections to SG as PM. In the time line he narrates there is a reported letter he wrote to SG at 3.30 pm on May 17, 2004 supposedly mentioning objections to her as PM. Subramanian Swamy has consistently referred to this letter being instrumental in SG backing out of the PM post. (Read Firstpost report) Now APJ must either acknowledge such a letter was written or deny its existence. In absence of either, it will always be in doubt whether the entire truth has been laid out by him. There have also been reports that the release of this letter has been declined even under RTI as being ‘confidential’. Even Swamy’s letter to APJ which he claims impacted the latter’s choices was unavailable for release under RTI. (Read this Outlook report).
Technically APJ is right. Having been elected as MP it automatically entitles SG to be a PM. And therefore he would have had ‘no option’ but to appoint her PM if she had staked a claim. If there were any legal hurdles to her appointment as PM much of those would have also applied to her qualifying for election as MP. Even in the case of Indira Gandhi it was her election as MP itself that was overturned leading to the imposition of Emergency. I, for one, have absolutely no doubts that if SG had chosen to become PM there would have been a flood of cases in various courts, including the Supreme Court, challenging her appointment. Her citizenship history and electoral declarations have too many flaws to withstand scrutiny for a PM.
So, while the Congress’ secular media outlets and the party may celebrate APJ’s revelation as some kind of moral victory it is merely hypothetical. Fact: Sonia Gandhi has gone better than PM. She is comfortable as the back-seat driver enjoying power and all privileges as the Super PM. Unlike a regular PM she doesn’t have to answer anybody – not the press, not the people, not anybody but her own ‘inner voice’. The only person who really knows why SG declined the PMship is she herself and she is not about to make any confessions any time soon or in the future. There is another aspect to the story. If SG had become PM her lack of knowledge about the country, lack of education and much more severe drawbacks would have all been exposed. This is something that also threatens Rahul Gandhi. So for the present, the fairy tale that the media spins about Sonia’s supreme sacrifice is one of those mythical stories that people will be fed with. Only difference is it was so far done without APJ’s help, now it will be done with some help howsoever hidden the actual truth.