At a time when the NCP appears to be softening its stand on the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, a new book by Congress leader and Food Minister K V Thomas recounts how Sharad Pawar had “backstabbed” Sonia Gandhi in 1999, and claims that even Rajiv Gandhi had observed that Pawar was “not trustworthy”.
The book, Sonia – The Beloved of the Masses, has a full chapter on how Pawar engineered the rebellion against Sonia over her foreign origin issue because of his “prime ministerial ambitions”. Titled ‘Backstabbing’, a separate chapter in the yet-to-be released book recounts that there was “little rapport between Sonia and Pawar” despite being in the same party.
Thomas says Pawar had eyed the second-in-command position in the Congress enjoyed by Arjun Singh and had calculated that if Sonia “were to be the PM, his pet dream of becoming PM would never be realised.” Recalling the Congress Working Committee meeting on May 15, 1999, he writes, “Reclining on a white cushion, Sharad Pawar smiled at P A Sangma. That was the green signal for revolt in the party — a fact not known to many members present at the meeting.” He says Sonia was “dumbstruck” when Sangma raised her foreign origin issue.
“Pawar started from where Sangma stopped. He praised her role as president of the party in bringing about unity in the party and making it vibrant. Then he went on to add that the party was not able to counter the propaganda on Sonia’s foreign birth. ‘We have to seriously think about this,’ Pawar maintained. Sonia felt the heat of the revolt as she heard these words from Pawar who was made Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha by her,” he says.
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Thomas goes on to recall the heated exchanges that took place after that. He says while Sonia made a silent exit, Pawar along with Sangma and Tariq Anwar told Pranab Mukherjee that “this is our last CWC”. He says the trio, “who turned their back on the party”, later sent a letter to Mukherjee and Madhavrao Scindia in the form of a chargesheet.
“Sonia did not care to read it. The reply was written by Arjun Singh. He described the trio who broke with Sonia as the Mir Jaffers. The backstabbing was more than what Sonia could tolerate,” he says. Thomas claims Sonia always used to keep a distance from Pawar. “Perhaps, she had in her mind Rajiv’s observation that Pawar, though capable, was not trustworthy,” he writes.
The book, an updated and translated version of Thomas’s 2006 Malayalam book Sonia Priyankari, will be released by Defence Minister A K Antony on February 20.
Thomas also recalls the Rajiv-Sonia romance, their marriage and her transformation to an ideal Indian daughter-in-law. Interestingly, he says Sonia did not approve of daughter Priyanka’s affair with Robert Vadra initially, “the reason being the strong links of some members of the Vadra family with RSS… However, after the marriage Sonia liked Robert Vadra very much.
He (Pawar ) praised her role as president of the party in bringing about unity in the party and making it vibrant. Then he went on to add that the party was not able to counter the propaganda on Sonia’s foreign birth. ‘We have to seriously think about this,’ Pawar maintained. Sonia felt the heat of the revolt as she heard these words from Pawar who was made Leader of the Opposi-tion in the Lok Sabha by her.