After former Media Advisor Sanjaya Baru's bestseller “The Accidental Prime Minister”, another former insider's revelations are likely to rock the Congress party, with probably higher impact. The insider is former External Affairs Minister and veteran Congressman, Natwar Singh, whose autobiography is scheduled to hit the stands in late July-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 Mr. Gandhi's assassination in 1991. Among the events Mr. Singh was privy to at 10 Janpath (Mrs. Gandhi's residence) were the selection of Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1991, as well as Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2004 as Prime Ministers.
As External Affairs Minister in 2004-2005, Mr. 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 they would have been impossible to conclude 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, and all but she and Mr. Singh had 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 described. It remains to be seen if this book will shed more light on the processes that finally swung the deal.
However, things turned for Mr. Singh soon after, over the revelations of the report prepared by former U.S. Fed Chairman Paul Volcker report on the controversial oil-for-food programme, that named both him and the Congress party. The report listed the names of those worldwide who had allegedly been paid for helping Saddam evade sanctions through the programmes.
Mr. Singh, who resigned in the fallout of the Volker 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. 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 the same manner, and Mr. Singh turned against the party he had been a member of for nearly 35 years, finally resigning in 2008. In subsequent years, he has been increasingly critical of the UPA government in columns and interviews.
Mr. Singh, who refused to be quoted on this issue, is learned to have given an account of what took place within the government during those turbulent times, as also the Singh-Sonia equation in government, that he, as the Gandhi-family confidante, and key Cabinet Minister to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was the ‘ultimate insider’ on.