'Sonia didn't allow me to become PM in 1991, treats Congress like family fiefdom': Pawar's new book

Sharad Pawar's newly released book says Congress chief Sonia Gandhi did not let him become prime minister in 1991 as he had an “independent mind” and his election to the post would “not be good for the first family.” Pawar calls out the Gandhis, including Indira, Rajiv and Sonia, for treating the Congress party as their “family fiefdom”.

 Sonia didnt allow me to become PM in 1991, treats Congress like family fiefdom: Pawars new book

NCP chief Sharad Pawar. PTI

This comes on the same day that Congress president Sonia Gandhi said Pawar was "a politician through and through in the best sense of that term" and the "only choice" for the post of agriculture minister during the two UPA governments.

Pawar's book 'Life on My Terms — 'From the Grassroots to the Corridors of Power, was formally released Thursday' — which also happened to be his 75th birthday. Sonia Gandhi, Narendra Modi, the President and Vice President were all present at the launch.

Pawar, who parted ways with the Congress in 1999 after opposing Sonia’s projection as PM candidate because of her foreign origin, writes that she brought back P V Narasimha Rao from retirement to become the PM, even though Pawar had a legitimate claim to the post as he had won the party maximum number of seats in Maharashtra.

Top quotes from the book:

“Both Indiraji and Rajiv shared another tendency: jumping to conclusions in a jiffy. Without ascertaining facts they believed what they were told.”

On P C Alexander convincing him to become Defence Minister: “He knew and I knew that I had been a strong contender but the Gandhi family was not about to let someone with an independent mind get to the prime minister’s post.”

In praise of Manmohan Singh: “Others in the Union cabinet cowered in fear of the First Family: what if the dynasty came to know of their support to the prime minister? I never had such fears.”

On Sonia Gandhi flip flop: “When she and I decided something, she would do exactly opposite. If I selected P C Chacko to open a debate on the party’s behalf, she would replace him just because he was supposed to be close to me.”

Sonia praises Pawar

Speaking at the 75th birthday celebrations of Pawar at Vigyan Bhavan, Gandhi said the former minister has a record of enduring achievements in whatever positions he has occupied.

"His friendships with his political opponents and adversaries are legendary. In the modern language of IT, his networking skills are formidable and those skills are much needed when politics takes on a bitter partisan flavour, as it does every now and then. He is a politician through and through in the best sense of that term," Gandhi said.

She said the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress have been valued allies.

Gandhi said she has known Pawar for more than two decades but his association with the Congress was much longer.

"We may have differed on some occasions, as any two individuals would do in a democratic system. But what has always been there is our respect for each other and the mutual belief that the legacy of our founding fathers should be protected, preserved and promoted."

"Although he parted ways with us, the Congress and the NCP have been valued allies," she said.

"Most recently, he was agriculture minister for a record 10 years between 2004 and 2014. No one else could have been in that crucial position for such a long time. He was a natural choice, in fact, the only choice."

"His tenure was impactful and saw several new achievements," Gandhi said.

She said it was during Pawar's tenure that production of rice and wheat reached record levels.

"He imparted a fresh impetus to agricultural research. His contributions to the development of horticulture in particular are widely acknowledged."

Extending her best wishes to Pawar, Gandhi said, "May he continue to bat as he has been doing and score a century at least".

She referred to the presence of political leaders from across the spectrum and said it was the testimony to Pawar's unique talents.

Referring to Pawar's interest in cricket, Gandhi said not many know that his father-in-law, who tragically died at a very young age, was a leg-spinner and had played seven Test matches for India.

"Perhaps this could have been one influence on him apart from the fact that he has spent so much of his life in Mumbai, which has been the cradle of much of our cricketing talent."

"Whatever it is, he has given to Indian cricket administration the famed Sharad Pawar expertise."

Gandhi said Pawar's wife Pratibha-tai has always remained in the background but "I am sure, has been the anchor of his life for over half a century."

Referring to Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule, who is an NCP Lok Sabha member, Gandhi said the "country has a fine, young and promising leader who has already made an impressive mark in parliament".

Pawar was born on December 12, 1940, at Baramati in Pune district of Maharashtra. He is a seven-time member of Lok Sabha and is at present a member of the Rajya Sabha.

With Agencies

Updated Date: Dec 12, 2015 10:08:27 IST