Sharad Pawar unreliable, fickle: Arjun Singh
Singh`s criticism and his unfavourable assessment of the NCP chief has been made in the late leader`s soon-to-be released autobiography "A Grain of Sand in the Hourglass of Time" being brought out by Hay House India.
The former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, who was Pawar`s colleague in the Narasimha Rao cabinet and later, has attacked him for raising the foreign origin issue of Sonia Gandhi and his subsequent hobnobbing with Congress.
In the book, Singh has said that he had warned Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 against re-admission of Pawar in the Congress saying his "history was not at all inspiring" and he could again ditch the party any day.
"My assessment of Pawar`s flip-flop nature proved correct in that, 13 years later, he began a malicious campaign against the leadership of the party. After being expelled, he formed a new party called the Nationalist Congress Party", he had written in the book.
Singh was also sure that this was not going to be the last act of Pawar, who, in one incarnation or the other, continues to hobnob with the Congress Party as a coalition partner. "One is not sure when the final rupture would take place as it is bound to", Singh, who had been a Cabinet colleague of Pawar in the Narasimha Rao and UPA-I Government, said.
Singh recalled that Pawar along with P A Sangma and Tariq Anwar dealt "an unforeseen blow" in 1999 to the Congress Party by suddenly raising the issue of the foreign origin of Sonia Gandhi, which was "totally uncalled for." "This incident also confirmed the unreliability and fickleness of Sharad Pawar", he said.
Recalling that in 1986, Rajiv Gandhi asked him to come along to a meeting in which he would formally reinduct Pawar into the Congress, Singh said, "I could not resist myself and told him that he, of course, had the right to take this step as the Congress president. But the history of Sharad Pawar, I pointed out, was not at all inspiring. I warned Rajiv that Pawar could again ditch the party any day. Rajiv did not reply, but only gave one of his enigmatic smiles. Sharad Pawar was thus back in Congress".
NCP is a constituent of the Congress-led UPA at the Centre for the last eight years and is sharing power in Maharashtra since 1999, just a few months after Pawar parted ways on the foreign origin issue of Sonia Gandhi.
A key Congress strategist when A B Vajpayee`s government lost by one vote in Lok Sabha in April 1999, Singh has not not dwelt much on the dramatic developments except pointing an accusing finger at Mulayam Singh Yadav for failure of the Congress to form the alternative government.
After the fall of the NDA Government, Sonia Gandhi failed to form a government staking claim to power with the famous quote of "we have 272". "The opposition had won the numbers game, but the Congress could not form the next government because Mulayam Singh Yadav(the head of the Samajwadi Party) backed out at the last moment", he has said without any elaboration.
Noting that as the BSP MPs had a crucial role to play during the voting, Singh said he was asked to try and secure their votes for the opposition. "In early April 1999, I met Kanshi Ram, the BSP supremo, and, after a great deal of negotiation, persuaded him to support the opposition."
The book has come at a time when Congress is keeping the SP and all other allies in good humour ahead of the Presidential elections.
Singh, who always played the loyalty card to the hilt, has also virtually glossed over the events leading to the Congress withdrawal of support to the I K Gujral government in the wake of the Jain Commission report on the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.
The former HRD Minister, who steered the Congress campaign against the continuance of DMK in the United Front government supported by it, merely said that in this report, the DMK was blamed for supporting the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi.
"Obviously, such a serious indictment could not be taken with equanimity by the Congress Party", he said, adding the party president, Sitaram Kesri, demanded that the DMK ministers in the Gujral cabinet step down till their names were cleared.
The Prime Minister resisted this demand and refused to drop the ministers concerned. "Differences on this account intensified and, ultimately, the Congress withdrew support to the Gujral Government, which resulted in the Prime Minister resigning on 28 November, 1997," he recalled.