WOULD SONIA ACCEPT THE JOB? alt39 SHE WILL ACCEPT,alt39 PRANAB SAID CLAIMING THAT SHE HAS BEEN CONSULTED INFORMALLY – A FACT DISPUTED BY SONIA. PRANAB LATER SAID HE HAS BEEN MISINFORMED! RASHID KIDWAI EXPLAINS THE MACHINATIONS WITHIN CONGRESS P
OST RAJIV GANDHIalt39S ASSASINATION.
At the conclusion of the meeting Arjun proposed that Sonia Gandhi take over as the AICC ( All India Congress Committee) chief and all the other present unanimously endorsed his proposal. Many years later, Parwar claimed he had raised a mild objection – a contention challenged by almost all those present at the meeting. When asked to spell out his objection, Pawar said he wanted to know if Sonia Gandhi had been consulted in this regard. He was, however, not incorrect in saying that Sonias selection as AICC chief had not been unanimous.
Significantly, many in the CWC ( Congress Working Committee), particularly those who knew her, were convinced that she would not accept the job. One account claimed that when Arjun was contemplating proposing Sonias name, Pawar had been visibly agitated. At this point someone had scribbled a tiny note saying alt39 She will not acceptalt39, and had passed it to Pawar, who had signed with relief. Yet another account has it that Arjun had only proposed Sonias name to keep Pawar in check.
All the party leaders present at the meeting at 24 Akbar Road disregarded the fact that Sonia was not even a alt39 char annaalt39 member of the Congress party. Char – or four – anna membership was a prerequisite for anyone joining the party. Mahatma Gandhi, who is credited with giving the Congress a mass base during Indias freedom struggle, had envisaged the concept of the char anna membership. No thought was given to Sonias complete unfamiliarity with the method and machinations of Indias political system.
Arjuns camp has yet another story: Arjun had approached Rao to propose Sonias name, but the latter refused on the grounds that he was presiding over the emergency CWC meet. The insinuation made was that Rao was working on a different agenda while projecting himself as a non- partisan person.
Years later, when Arjun gained the upper hand in the Sonia- led Congress and Rao was unceremonially shown the door, his supporters added Raos alt39 defiant act in 1991alt39 to their political chargesheet against the former prime minister to convince Sonia to keep him out of all party forums.
These deliberations took place while Rajivs body still lay in state. CWCs decision was communicated to Sonia by a group of party leaders, which included Ghulam Nabi Azad and Pranab Mukherjee. The meeting between the Congress leaders and Sonia lasted barely ten minutes. Sonia did not say anything about it, but she must have been taken aback by the timing of the request.
A day later, she issued a small statement, refusing to accept the post. The note read: alt39 The tragedy that has befallen me and my children does not make it possible for me to accept the presidentship of the Congress.alt39 Family friends said that Sonia and her children did not even consider the offer. alt39 In fact, it was considered extremely insensitive on the part of the CWC to have made such a gesture when Rajivs funeral had not taken place,alt39 one of them said, confirming that there was no discussion even among close friends about the CWC offer. alt39 We were all too shocked and grieved to discuss politics,alt39 said a friend of Rajivs, who later opposed Sonias entry into politics.
Actor Amitabh Bachchan, who was still close to the family, was also opposed to Sonia entering politics. At that juncture, his opinion was greatly valued. Amitabh had been unhappy with most of Rajivs party managers, when he was an MP from Allahabad between 1985 and 1987. Amitabh is said to have recalled how Rajiv was forced to lead the party in a similar fashion after Indiras assassination and wondered how long the members of the Gandhi family would continue to make such sacrifices.
Meanwhile, Pranab broke the news of Sonias selectio