After former Media Adviser Sanjaya Baru’s bestseller, The Accidental Prime Minister, another former insider’s revelations are likely to rock the Congress party, probably with greater impact.
The insider is former External Affairs Minister and veteran Congress leader, Natwar Singh, whose autobiography One Life is Not Enough is scheduled to hit the stands in late July or early August.
In it Mr. Singh describes his early years as a diplomat, his proximity to former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, but more pertinently, say sources, to events post-Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991. Among the events Mr. Singh was privy to at 10 Janpath (Sonia Gandhi’s residence) were the selection of P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1991, and Manmohan Singh in 2004 as Prime Ministers.
As External Affairs Minister in 2004-05, Natwar Singh was also one of the early negotiators on the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal.
However after the revelations of the Volcker report on the oil-for-food scam, Mr Singh was forced to quit the government and later the Congress.
Natwar book – the ultimate insider’s account
In the latest of the insider autobiographies, former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh’s book ‘One Life is Not Enough’ is learned to have given an account of what took place within the government during UPA-I as also the Manmohan Singh-Sonia equation in government, that he, as the Gandhi-family confidant, and key Cabinet Minister to PM Manmohan Singh, the ‘ultimate insider’ was privy to.
As External Affairs Minister in 2004-2005, Natwar Singh was also one of the early negotiators on the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mentions his contribution to the negotiations in Washington in her autobiography, saying that it would have been impossible to conclude the deal without Mr. Singh. At one point in her book, No Higher Honor, Ms. Rice describes how Dr. Manmohan Singh had decided against the nuclear agreement, but she and Mr. Singh hadn’t given up. “Natwar was adamant. He wanted the deal, but the Prime Minister wasn’t sure he could sell it in New Delhi. We pushed as far as we could toward agreement,” she describes. It remains to be seen if this book will shed more light on the processes that finally swung the deal.
However, things turned choppy for Mr. Singh soon after the revelations of a report prepared by former U.S. Fed Chairman Paul Volcker on the controversial oil-for-food programme. It had named both Mr. Singh and the Congress party. The report listed the names of those worldwide who had allegedly been paid for helping the former president of Iraq Saddam Hussein evade sanctions through the programmes.
Mr. Singh, who resigned in the fallout of the Volcker oil-for-food report in 2005, was never rehabilitated in the government, and for that matter, within the party after that.
The Justice Pathak commission indicted Mr. Natwar Singh and his son Jagat Singh for ties with the Saddam regime, but failed to conclude he had made any financial benefit, despite a thorough Enforcement Directorate probe.
However the Congress party was never investigated in a similar manner and Mr. Singh turned against the party he had been a member of for nearly 35 years. He finally resigned from the party in 2008. In subsequent years, he has been increasingly critical of the United Progressive Alliance government in columns and interviews.
Mr. Singh has refused to be quoted on this issue.