In 2004, the then President APJ Abdul Kalam took a long time to be convinced that the country could have a council of Union ministers even after the Parliament was dissolved and an election had been announced.
“The President had a fundamental question. How could the council of ministers remain when there was no Parliament? After all, he said, the ministers were supposed to be answerable to Parliament,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, one of the two people tasked with convincing Kalam then, said Wednesday. The other person was then Attorney General, Soli Sorabjee. The two took turns to explain legalities, past precedents and the Constitutional provisions to Kalam who finally signed on the dotted line after hours of meetings, he said. In 2004, then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had dissolved Parliament to advance the general election by about six months.
Speaking at the release of “Dr APJ Abdul Kalam: The People’s President”, penned by the President’s press secretary S M Khan, Jaitley said: “We explained that Indira Gandhi had done it in the early 70s and that there were Supreme Court pronouncements on the matter. It was then that he was convinced. He was an unconventional President.” Vice President Hamid Ansari released the book.
Similarly, Jaitley said Kalam would also send back files to the Supreme Court’s Collegium when “people were not measuring up in judicial appointments”. “Dr Kalam had a mind of his own,” he said.
“Before he became President, I was again tasked with the job of explaining certain political matters to him because he was new. I went to his house and explained a lot of things. Soon I realised he was not listening. Instead, he kept asking me about the ocean and the hemisphere. He was unconventional that way,” Jaitley said.