New Delhi: 'Self-styled' loyalists of 10, Janpath convinced Sonia Gandhi that it would be better to back P V Narasimsha Rao in 1991 as Prime Minister over him as the "Gandhi family was not about to let someone with independent mind" to get the top post, Sharad Pawar has claimed.
The loyalists including the late Arjun Singh, himself an aspirant for the prime minister's post played a "clever trick" to convince Sonia Gandhi in the decision to choose Rao over Pawar, says the NCP President, who became Defence Minister in Rao's cabinet.
Pawar has made these claims in his book 'Life on my terms-From the Grassroots and Corridors of Power', which was formally released in the presence of a galaxy of political leaders including Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the President and Vice President at a function to celebrate his 75th birth day, which is tomorrow.
He says that his name was considered for the top post in the party not only in Maharashtra but also in other states. He was personally more circumspect as he was aware that a lot depended on the inclination of 10 Janpath, where Sonia Gandhi resides.
"Though a senior leader, P V Narasimha Rao had withdrawn from mainstream politics for health reasons before the election. Given his long experience, there were suggestions to bring him back following the unforeseen exit of Rajiv," Pawar states in his book.
"Self styled loyalists of 10 Janpath started saying in private conversations that Sharad Pawar's election as prime minister would harm the First Family's interest in view of his young age.
"'Woh Lambi Race Ka Ghoda Hoga' (He will hold the reins for a very long time), they argued. Among them who played a clever trick were M L Fotedar, R K Dhawan, Arjun Singh and V George.
"They convinced Sonia Gandhi that it would be safer for her to back Narasimha Rao because he was old and not in a good shape. Arjun Singh himself aspired to become prime minister and hoped to succeed Rao soon. Anyway, once Sonia Gandhi had bought the coterie's 'bring Rao' argument in 1991, the tide turned against me," Pawar says.