The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Natwar stares at Cong exit, alone

New Delhi, Aug. 6: When Natwar Singh’s name figured in the Volcker report on the oil-for-food scam and his exit from the Union cabinet appeared certain, a gaggle of supporters from Bharatpur, his fief and constituency, had raised slogans of support.

Nine months and a near total marginalisation — he has been thrown out of the Congress Working Committee too — later, the release of the Pathak committee report has apparently left his constituents untouched.

The scene at his 19 Teen Murti Lane residence was one of desolation. A clutch of geriatric Jats from east Rajasthan was seated on a charpoy outside the reception. One muttered: “The Congress should not treat a senior leader in this manner.”

That remark was the closest expression of solidarity with Natwar and unhappiness with the party that one heard.

So, is the syndrome of the winner — or in the Congress’s case, the survivor — taking all and loser being left with nothing at work in Natwar’s case'

That’s what some Congress leaders feel. “With due deference to his seniority, erudition, capacity to articulate on foreign policy and loyalty to the Gandhi family, one must see through the plot.

“From day one, we were clear it was untenable to keep him in the government and face the Opposition day after day. He could have waited out like so many of us, who are in and out of the doghouse, do.

“But no, he had delusions of grandeur, of navigating the Congress back to what he thought was the correct ideological path. Nobody bought that because it was transparent that he was doing it for himself.

“What great ideological point was he trying to make by consorting with the likes of Amar Singh'” asked a senior leader.

The “rebellion” was taken note of in the aftermath of Volcker when Natwar desperately tried to rally the Left behind him to make a case out for how the US was out to get him out as foreign minister because of his known stand.

That was a cardinal sin for the Congress, which is struggling with the reality of coalition politics. For a senior minister and a member of Sonia Gandhi’s core committee to overstep the party limits was unthinkable.

But because the Congress knew it was in power thanks to the Left, the leaders didn’t overreact and left Natwar alone.

The “group of four” he put together to oppose the Indo-US nuclear deal was an act of sacrilege for the Congress. First, it included Sonia’s bete noire Amar, the BJP’s Yashwant Sinha and the Janata Dal (United)’s Digvijay Singh.

Second, a Congress source asked: “When it was amply made clear to the Left that we will not countenance any criticism of the PM on this issue, why did Natwar have to flout this line'

“With what face can we hope to rein in the Left when a senior Congressman openly supports their views'”

Now that Natwar has made it clear he would fight the Congress to the finish, sources conceded there was no option but to show him the door.

They had hoped he would wait for the action taken report to be placed in Parliament before charting the next course of action.

“But he was probably pumped up so much by Amar Singh that he was in a hurry,” said a senior leader.

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