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Natwar claims Rahul hand in ‘sacrifice’

New Delhi, July 30: Former external affairs minister Natwar Singh today hit Sonia Gandhi where it would hurt by questioning the sacrifice theory that defines her political persona.

Natwar claimed it was son Rahul Gandhi’s fear that she would be killed — like father Rajiv Gandhi and grandmother Indira Gandhi — that became the decisive factor in Sonia’s refusal to accept the Prime Minister’s post.

If it is established that Rahul’s fears had shaped her political strategy, Sonia’s standing in the eyes of the public would likely fall several notches.

Natwar, whose autobiography is set for release next week, told a news channel: “There was a meeting on May 18, 2004, at 10 Janpath where Manmohan, Suman Dubey, myself and Priyanka were present.

“Priyanka revealed Rahul was opposed to Sonia’s becoming the Prime Minister. She said Rahul feared Sonia would be killed in the same manner as his father and grandmother were killed.

“Priyanka said Rahul was very adamant, he said he would take any step to stop her from becoming the PM.”

Asked if, left to herself, Sonia would have accepted the post, Natwar said: “That’s a difficult question to answer.”

Only Priyanka, Dubey — a journalist close to the family —and Manmohan Singh can throw light on this. Priyanka and Dubey will act in the family’s interest, but it is difficult to guess if Manmohan would join issue with Natwar, who was dropped from the UPA after a UN inquiry named him as a beneficiary of Iraq’s oil-for-food programme.

Congress communications chief Ajay Maken told The Telegraph: “It is ridiculous. These days it has become fashionable to sensationalise the contents of a book with the sole aim of ensuring better sales and free publicity. This is yet another such exercise. Any comment on it will be a futile exercise.”

Manmohan’s media adviser Sanjaya Baru had recently created a stir with his book, The Accidental Prime Minister.

Sonia and Priyanka had called on Natwar a few days ago, sources said. Natwar claimed they wanted the information withheld but he was bent on bringing the truth into the public domain.

This revelation not only affects Sonia’s political profile, it also portrays Rahul as an immature young man who acted in fear instead of demonstrating courage and commitment towards the country.

Natwar’s claim is in sharp contrast to what Sonia said while refusing the Prime Minister’s post. “I was always certain that if ever I found myself in the position that I am in today, I would follow my own inner voice. Today, that voice tells me I must humbly decline this postů.”

A Congress leader said: “What Natwar is saying may have some truth in it but the conclusions are wrong. Any family will face this kind of a dilemma and Rahul’s emotional reaction was natural. But after all, the decision was a calculated political move which was nothing but sacrifice.”