Hong Kong: Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy said on Saturday that former President APJ Abdul Kalam was “not being truthful to history” in claiming, as he does in his memoirs, that he had been ready in 2004 to appoint Congress leader Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister, overruling political opposition that cited Sonia Gandhi‘s foreign origins.
In an interview to Firstpost in Hong Kong on the sidelines of a World Hindu Economic Forum, Swamy said that Kalam should release the letter that (Swamy claims) Kalam wrote to Sonia Gandhi at 3.30 pm on 17 May 2004, which would establish that Kalam had indicated to Sonia Gandhi that her claim to prime ministership would not be honoured.
Abdul Kalam would enhance his credibility “if he published the letter he wrote to Sonia Gandhi at 3.30 pm,” Swamy said. There were two other eyewitnesses to the fact that a letter did go out to Sonia Gandhi, Swamy said.
(Swamy has earlier claimed that both Manmohan Singh and Natwar Singh knew of the letter, and he confirmed that again today.)
Swamy’s dare comes in response to claims that Kalam made in his memoirs that he had prepared a letter appointing Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister, despite political opposition to such a move, from Swamy and others. Kalam also notes in his memoirs that when Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh came to Rashtrapati Bhavan, Sonia Gandhi surprised him (Kalam) by saying that she was appointing Manmohan Singh for the Prime Minister’s post. The appointment letter from Rashtrapati Bhavan, which initially had Sonia Gandhi’s name for Prime Ministership, had to be changed, Kalam notes in his memoirs. (More on that here)
“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,” says Kalam in his new book Turning Points.
That version of events has now been challenged by Swamy, who says he met Kalam at 12.30 on that afternoon to point out that there were legal obstacles to appointing Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister.
“I had met (Kalam) at 12.30 pm and explained to him that there is a legal bar,” Swamy told Firstpost. “Subsequently, I learnt that there was a letter written by him cancelling his appointment with Sonia Gandhi for 5 pm” — at which Sonia Gandhi was to have staked her claim to the prime ministership on the basis of supporting letters from alliance parties.
“If Mr Abdul Kalam doesn’t publish that letter, I would think that he is not being truthful to history,” Swamy said.
Swamy has indicated earlier that Kalam had invited him to Rashtrapati Bhavan to explain to him and to other officials the nature of the legal obstacles that Sonia Gandhi’s appointment would face — since, in Swamy’s opinion, her Indian citizenship (by registration) was flawed since she had not renounced her Italian citizenship.
Swamy has further claimed that when he was at Rashtrapati Bhavan, he even came across a letter from Sonia Gandhi to President Kalam supporting her own nomination for prime ministership. (He cites this to challenge the dominant Congress narrative that Sonia Gandhi was never interested in the top job.)
When Firstpost asked Swamy if he was standing by his assertion that Kalam had been persuaded not to appoint Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister, he said emphatically: “Yes, I know it for a fact that a letter was written…. That letter is on record.”
In response to another question, Swamy said he could not explain why Kalam was today offering an alternative version of the narrative that challenged Swamy’s. Asked if Kalam’s claim should be seen in the light of the aborted attempt to nominate him for a second term as President, perhaps with the support of the Congress, Swamy declined to speculate. “The more important question is: why is he saying what he is saying now,” he added.
Asked if he was disappointed at having pitched for a second term for Kalam as President (in the light of the revelations in Kalam’s memoirs, which challenge Swamy’s version of the events), Swamy said he had no regrets at all, “I still believe he would have made a very good candidate.” Perhaps there were other circumstances that he didn’t know about that might account for Kalam’s change in the narrative, Swamy added. – FirstPost, 30 June 2012
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