Sonia’s story will one day be an open book
Jul 31 2014 , New Delhi
Sonia Gandhi was reacting to a question about the controversy triggered by Singh’s book One Life Is Not Enough: An Autobiography which makes many controversial claims.
Insisting that she was not hurt, Sonia Gandhi said that she had seen worse things like her husband Rajiv Gandhi being assassinated and her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi riddled with bullets.
"I am far from getting hurt from these things. These things do not affect me," she said.
Singh had claimed that it was not Sonia's "inner voice" that prevented her from taking up the prime minister's post, as she had stated at that time but opposition from her son Rahul Gandhi, who was afraid she would be killed like his father and grandmother if she accepted the post.
The former foreign minister, who fell out with the Gandhi clan after Mrs Gandhi took over the party, yet again launched a scathing attack on her. During a TV channel discussion on his book, Singh said: "No Indian would treat a man who was loyal to family for 45 years who had been very close to her...It's just not done in India. There is a part of her which is ruthless." Asked if that was her Italian part, he shot back, asking what else can it be?
He then added, “Some part of it is not Indian”. He went on to say that “Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi would not be like that.” he added.
When asked if he was fonder of Rajiv than Sonia, he snapped back saying, "He did not behave like his wife did." In the book, Singh also makes certain startling disclosures regarding Operation Brasstacks, the IPKF operation in Sri Lanka against the LTTE and the larger diplomatic, strategic and political ramifications it had for the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
When asked specifically whether he preferred Gandhi over the present Congress chief, Mr Singh said yes, that is the case.
In the free-flowing interview that largely discusses the contents of his book, Singh claimed that Gandhi agreed to send the troops to Sri Lanka even without consulting his cabinet colleagues or top officials. The decision, he added, was taken at a reception hosted by president Jayawardene for Gandhi in Colombo.
Singh went on to add that by the time he and P V Narasimha Rao — both of whom were also in Colombo with the Indian PM — found out the order to dispatch troops to Sri Lanka had already been given as Jayawardene feared a coup against him. Importantly, the former foreign minister revealed the 'casual and cavalier' decision to forcibly airdrop food parcel. Gandhi and his team had not realised that they needed to inform President Jayawardene as well as our own man at the UN, he added. "They only did so when I pointed out that forcible airdrops amounted to an invasion of Sri Lanka’s sovereign air space and as a member of the Security Council (which India was not at that time) Sri Lanka could create a problem for India unless steps were taken both to inform President Jayawardene in advance and alert our Ambassador at the UN to be on his guard,’’Singh disclosed in the damning interview.
Singh also reveals as to how the Indian PM was 'naively trusting' of Prabhakaran. as after Mr Gandhi met Prabhakaran, he asked Gandhi if he had got anything in writing from Prabhakaran. To this, "Rajiv got irritated and said he has given me his word,’’ he added. On a critical note of IPKF’s operation Singh said the IPKF went in without a clear briefing or objectives as neither were the troops told about the geography of the Jaffna Peninsula nor about the LTTE hide-outs. “From the very beginning, the Sri Lankan ethnic issue was mishandled and ended as complete failure,” he said.
Singh revealed that Operation Brasstacks was cooked up by then minister of state for defence Arun Singh and then army chief Sundarji and that the then PM Gandhi was totally in the dark. Relating a disturbing story, Singh discloses how Gandhi summoned him and revealed that he knew nothing of Operation Brasstacks, even though, as the PM put it, India and Pakistan were suddenly about to go to war.
Regarding the two Aruns (Arun Singh and Arun Nehru) Natwar says: “They wielded much power, exceeded their authority and used their influence with thoughtless rigour, without care or caution. Both controlled access to the PM. Their administrative experience was nil, they were blind to the complexities and intricacies of government."
On the first 18 months of Gandhi’s prime ministership, Singh claimed that “when Rajiv’s popularity was at its height, he depended wholly on a team of ignoramuses with inflated egos: one claimed to be a socialist whilst one was an inept political wheeler- dealer. A third was a meddling nuisance. Collectively, they were an irresponsible group that showed little regard for senior Congress ministers and government rules and regulations. They dented Rajiv Gandhi’s prestige and his image”. While Singh revealed the names of two of these three because they are dead, he refused to reveal the name of the third because he is still alive.
Singh also said that while Mr Gandhi’s first China visit was very successful there was a terrible faux pas made by him. The highlight of the visit was Gandhi’s meeting with Deng but he forgot to take the ambassador or the foreign secretary and when he realised his mistake he apologized to foreign secretary KPS Menon, Singh disclosed. Meanwhile, Congress accused former external affairs minister Natwar Singh of making “allegations” and “distorting” facts in the wake his comments on the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to take up the job of prime minister in 2004.