Sonia Gandhi and late Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao had strained relations when he was the Prime Minister as she was unhappy over the slow pace of progress in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination probe, says a book written by Union Food Minister K V Thomas.
And when Gandhi chose to go public with her unhappiness over the probe in August 1995, it was a build up to what she would choose two years later to enter active politics, says Thomas in his book ‘Sonia–The Beloved Of The Masses’.
The fact that Gandhi and Rao did not share an easy relationship was also confirmed by former minister Natwar Singh, who recollects how Rao called him one night in May, 1995 to say how he was been “insulted” by her.
Referring to a speech made by Sonia Gandhi on August 20, 1995 on the birth anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, Thomas says in his book that her words had pained the entire nation.
“That was why Sonia, who was not close to Rao, pointed an accusing finger at the government. Aggrieved about the inordinate delay in the Rajiv’s assassination probe, she asked if the investigation related to the killing of a former prime minister was to take so much time, what would be the fate of ordinary citizens who fights for justice?”
Thomas says it could not be construed in a simplistic way as a statement against the slow pace of the process of meting out justice. “When Congress was in power, a broadside from Sonia was indeed a censure of Narasimha Rao,” he writes.
Sonia believed so long as Rao remained in power, the probe into Rajiv’s death will reach nowhere, says Thomas in the book.
“Her conviction was some other agency might have masterminded the murder and engineered it through LTTE. It was circumstances which pushed Sonia into politics. How could she remain witness when the edifices of the party was crumbling,” he says.
Writing in a Delhi daily last week, Natwar Singh recalls from his dairy notings of May 13, 1995 when Rao called him to his Race Course Residence in the night.
“Around 9 pm P V walked in, he did not sit down. Theznormally imperturbable P V appeared flummoxed and agitated: I have just received her letter to me?’ I said I have not seen it. The two were apparently having an epistolary war regarding the trial of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins.”
Singh says what Rao said next was so unexpected that he was dumbfounded. “I cannot take her on. I could. I don’t want to. What does she expect me to do?”, the prime minister had said.
A junior minister in Rao’s cabinet with whom he developed differences later, Singh suggested he meet Sonia Gandhi.
“How often do I see her? It is a question of my self respect. Her attitude is affecting my health. How many times do I have to be insulted.”
Singh told Rao that he had never discussed Rao with Gandhi but he got the impression that she felt the question of trial of her husband’s assassination was not proceeding fast enough.
He recalls that Rao told him of all the steps taken by the government including making P Chidambaram incharge of the assassination probe subject. “If she thinks my leaving will improve the matter, I am willing to go.”