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Natwar fires ‘hate’ salvo

New Delhi, Aug. 8: People hate Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Natwar Singh has declared.

A loyalist who loved to flaunt his proximity to the family until he was expelled from the Congress in 2005 over the Iraq oil-for-food scandal, Natwar blamed the party’s recent election debacle on “anti-dynasty sentiment”.

“They have ruled this country for far too long… people have seen four generations. Now they are fed up with them. Only one family doesn’t represent the idea of India,” said the former external affairs minister, who has hit out at Sonia in his just-released autobiography.

In an interview to The Telegraph, Natwar said: “People hate the idea of family rule. This was a big test for Rahul Gandhi. He was the star campaigner. He was expected to bring new dynamism and vision. Sonia was the other key campaigner. But people hate them. The loss is not because of the party workers. It was the rejection of the leadership.”

The Congress won only 44 seats in the last general election, its lowest tally ever.

Natwar, who is basking in the attention his book, One Life is Not Enough, has drawn with its claim that Rahul’s fears for her life and not the spirit of sacrifice was behind Sonia’s decision not to become Prime Minister, continued: “Being in power for so long made them arrogant. They got disconnected with the ground reality and relied solely on a small set of advisers; Rahul’s aides sit in closed rooms with computers and Sonia’s advisers were drunk on power.”

Clearly still bitter about his ouster from the party, he went on: “I am told by several senior leaders Rahul doesn’t even ask them to sit when they go to meet him. He will turn them away in a few minutes. He thinks those who are advising him know the whole truth. They have ruined his leadership potential.”

To a question about the chorus in the Congress for bringing in Priyanka, Natwar was cutting: “Where will Rahul go if she comes? She is more dynamic, charming, flexible… she can communicate with all kinds of people, mingle with the poor and eat with them. Rahul can’t.”

The Congress “was in total disconnect with reality. Muslims told me before the election they would not vote for the Congress because their loyalty cannot be mortgaged to one family. Their support can’t be taken for granted”, he claimed.

But despite his stinging criticism, Natwar ironically said: “Without Sonia and Rahul, the Congress will get reduced to four seats. Only they can sustain the party. There won’t be a consensus on any other leader.”

On other reasons for the Congress’s rout, Natwar who was never known to get along with the former Prime Minister said: “Very poor governance. Manmohan Singh presumed that the Congress won because of him in 2009. The entire Congress got drunk on power. When scams occurred, nobody spoke up. Sonia should have intervened when 2G, CWG scandals were happening. The people taught them a lesson and the Congress will be routed in the next round of Assembly elections too.”

Narendra Modi ran a “fantastic campaign” and the Congress had no answer to his leadership, he said. Asked how the party could be revived, he said: “The situation is pathetic. I am pained being an old Congressman. They brought this party to 44 seats. The future doesn’t look bright.”