Not just Rao: Pawar, Scindia also had hats in the ring after Rajiv Gandhi killing

Exactly how many people were in the fray for the Prime Minister’s post after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991? And how many other people were suggesting names or involved in pushing other names? And what was Sonia Gandhi’s role in all this?

K Natwar Singh, in his explosive book One Life Is Not Enough, suggested that he helped Sonia Gandhi choose PV Narasimha Rao as prime minister in 1991. According to him, Gandhi first wanted Shankar Dayal Sharma as prime minister. This suggests that Gandhi was not just a devastated widow grieving quietly, but was even then active in politics.

 Not just Rao: Pawar, Scindia also had hats in the ring after Rajiv Gandhi killing

Former prime minister of India Rajiv Gandhi in a file photo. AFP

Former home secretary RD Pradhan has rubbished this in this interview to The Economic Times. He says Rao had been elected the Congress Working Committee’s choice for working president and that the other contender was Sharad Pawar. Pradhan claims he persuaded Pawar to step back and that he certainly was not working at Gandhi’s behest.

Another recently-released memoir, which has escaped attention since it is focused on the author’s professional life as a public sector manager, has an interesting sidelight on the prime ministerial musical chairs after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. V Krishnamurthy’s book was released on 30 June. (A disclosure here: this writer had assisted Krishnamurthy with the book.)

In At the Helm: A Memoir, Krishnamurthy, who successfully steered public sector giants such as Bhel, Maruti and Sail, suggests that the late Madhavrao Scindia’s name was also doing the rounds as Rajiv Gandhi’s successor.

In a chapter dealing with his life after Sail (his last assignment), Krishnamurthy says that after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, he and Sam Pitroda (who had been working with the former prime minister after his defeat in the 1989 elections) had drafted a note for discussion on the attributes of the next prime minister from the Congress if it returned to power.

“We circulated it among a select few who were close to Rajiv Gandhi. The note discussed a number of people who were prominent leaders of the party. It clearly zeroed in on Scindia, since it spoke about the need for someone who was young, did not come with an ideological baggage and had a mystique about him (which Scindia did, given his royal background),” he writes on page 248. The book does not mention who the select few the note was circulated among were.

Scindia was not reluctant of stepping up to the task, according to the book. Krishnamurthy writes that he and Pitroda had “meetings with Scindia” (so clearly there was an active move to persuade him) regarding this. Scinida, however, said he would enter the fray only if Sonia Gandhi proposed his name. “We, however, had no intention of disturbing her in her time of grief and we had no means of knowing her mind,” Krishnamurthy writes. This also contradicts Singh’s claim that Gandhi was involved in Congress politics in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s death.

Maybe Sonia Gandhi should write her memoirs, after all, for a final, definitive word on all that happened post 1991.

Updated Date: Aug 04, 2014 20:51:49 IST