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IN what is arguably one of the most scathing critiques of Congress president Sonia Gandhi in public by a one-time veteran of her party and Union Minister, a new book by former Foreign Minister K Natwar Singh uses a range of adjectives to describe her: from “authoritarian” and “capricious” to “Machiavellian” and “secretive.”
In Singh’s autobiography One Life is Not Enough (published by Rupa), the author, in a five-page epilogue, says that what Sonia has “achieved” is the reduction of one of the “greatest political parties” of the world into a “rump” of 45 members in the Lok Sabha. And hopes that with a “commanding majority,” Narendra Modi, as PM, will “restore the image” of the country.
Clearly smarting from his humiliating sacking from the Congress in the wake of the Volcker controversy, Natwar, once a close Gandhi family confidant, has written that while his hounding and harassment continues, “Sonia Gandhi can neither run nor hide”. And on Sonia’s own comment that she had felt betrayed by him, he writes, “It was a case of the pot calling the kettle black.”
There is an entire chapter on Sonia in Natwar’s memoirs, in which he describes her as “every biographer’s dream” but a “prima donna” who has evolved over the years from being a diffident, nervous, shy woman to being ambitious, authoritarian, capricious and obsessively secretive. In the conclusion to this section, he writes that “her public image is not flattering... politics has coarsened her”.
Echoing Manmohan Singh’s ex-media adviser Sanjaya Baru’s book, Natwar has claimed that 10 Janpath (Sonia’s residence) was where the real power centre of the UPA government was. He alleges that “Sonia very discreetly monitored the functioning of the most important ministries in the government, displaying a Machiavellian side to her character”.
He then goes on to describe how he was convinced a mole from his office (the Ministry of External Affairs) was feeding false information to 10 Janpath. He recalls how once in February 2005, he had accompanied Afghan President Hamid Karzai to 10 Janpath but encountered some “verbal terrorism” from Sonia. The Congress president, he writes, alleged that she had information he was getting involved in defence deals and had passed on files on some defence deals to Pranab Mukherjee (who was then defence minister). The author writes that his obvious conclusion after facing such an attack was that “the mole was at work. It seems that she