Veteran Congressman and Human Resource Development Minister in UPA-1,Arjun Singh,was deeply hurt when he was left out of the Union Cabinet when the alliance returned to power in 2009. But he remained a loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family,a tag he wore until his death last year,his posthumous autobiography suggests.
While the soon-to-be-released book A Grain of Sand in the Hourglass of Time,co-authored by Ashok Chopra does not contain any negative references to the first family of the party,it is rather critical of former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao.
After the process for Cabinet formation was over (in 2009),I was taken aback when I learnt that my name was not in the list of Council of Ministers despite all that I had done for the Congress party as a loyal member for so many decades. Moreover,I had once enjoyed the confidence of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi,during whose tenures I had carried out many crucial assignments, Singh has written.
Deeply hurt,I was unable to understand why I had not been appointed a minister. I then decided to face the reality in a stoic manner and,after deep self-introspection,came to the conclusion that the older generation had to make way for youngsters and one could not hope to hold on to office indefinitely.
After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991,Singh has written that he was witness to the ugly face of politics and was truly disgusted by Raos reaction to the suggestion that Sonia Gandhi should be made Congress chief.
On hearing our suggestion,Rao kept quiet for a few minutes with a grave expression on his face. Suddenly,he burst out in anger and virtually yelled out words to the effect that whether it was essential that the Congress party should be treated like a train where the compartments have to be attached to an engine belonging to the Nehru-Gandhi family or were there other alternatives? I was dumbfounded by Raos outburst but kept quiet, Singh writes.
The then AICC treasurer,Sitaram Kesri,apparently contended that it would be in the fitness of things if we were to offer the post of the Congress president to Sonia first. Rao realised that he had perhaps spoken too much too soon and had exposed his anti-Nehru feelings very clearly. He,therefore,thoughtfully asked,There is no harm in making the suggestion,but will she accept it? We had no immediate answer to his query except that we would have to approach Sonia Gandhi and seek her reaction, Singh writes.
In a chapter on The Demolition at Ayodhya and its Impact,Singh said that he had warned Rao about the possibility of the disputed structure being demolished any day. It happened the very next day. After news of the Babri Masjid demolition came,Rao locked himself in his room with directions not to disturb him under any circumstances. To my mind,the scene very much resembled the infamous spectacle of Nero fiddling while Rome burnt.
Singh subsequently left the party and formed the Congress (Tiwari) with another veteran party leader,N D Tiwari. He returned to the Congress in 1996 after Rao was replaced as party president.
Talking about his controversial move to give quotas to OBCs in educational institutions,Singh has written in another chapter that in early 2008,I broached the subject formally in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Although he was initially hesitant,he eventually gave me permission to go ahead.