Rediff Navigator News


Capital Buzz

The Rediff Interview


The Rediff Poll


Crystal Ball

Click Here

The Rediff Special



'The charges are baseless and I knew I had nothing to worry about'

P V Narasimha Rao It is easier to extract blood from a stone than it is to get P V Narasimha Rao to be forthcoming on the record. The first interview he gave Sunday -- in 1991 shortly after taking over -- become an almost comic affair in which he refused to answer at any length any question which could be at all controversial.

Later, he stopped giving interviews to anybody and left it to his media managers to destroy his image. In recent months, he has begun talking to the press but always comes across as uncommunicative and distant; as a man who is being forced to confess at gunpoint.

Negotiations for this interview began six weeks ago. We were clear that we did not want the usual Narasimha Rao interview in which the interviewer fired questions while the subject ducked. And yet it is hard for a man to change his basic nature at the age of 75.

Finally, we agreed on a compromise that was not entirely satisfactory but did at least guarantee that we would get some answers out of a former prime minister whose reticence put even Morarji Desai to shame.

Sunday editor Vir Sanghvi met Rao for two long off-the-record conversations at the end of which Rao agreed to answer a questionnaire which went over the ground that had been covered in their chats.

Narasimha Rao was clear that he would only give his replies in writing. "Every time I say anything, people seize on it for all kinds of meanings so I am uncomfortable with talking. At least this way, I can think about the answers and phrase them carefully," he explained. From our perspective of course, what is meant was this: No supplementaries would be possible.

He sent us two replies to a long questionnaire. He sent one set of answers over, thought about it again and then decided he wanted to do another set of replies. For the most part, it is vintage Rao: articulate on issues of policy but closed in on any controversial matter. And of course, the famous reticence remains when it comes to any personal questions. But events overtook the interview as Sunday was going to press.

Rao was perturbed enough by the interview with Jayalalitha to want to categorically deny her claim that the Congress-AIADMK alliance had been negotiated by his astrologer, Raghavendra Rao. He phoned Sanghvi and agreed to answer two questions on the subject.

Then, just as we were about to print, Narasimha Rao suddenly stepped down. The interview risked being incomplete without some explanation of the sudden decision. There was no time now for questionnaires and written answers.

On the morning of Tuesday, 24 September, while Sitaram Kesri's supporters celebrated his accession as Rao's successor, Sanghvi and Rao spoke again about the resignation.

These responses appear at the beginning of the interview, lead in to the conversation about astrology and then, the written replies take over. We have kept questions that may now seem out of date (about a working president, for instance) because they provide an insight into Rao's state of mind just four days before he resigned.

Readers may find that the real Narasimha Rao comes across more in the spoken par of the interview than in the written responses. But then, that is Narasimha Rao: Always preferring to be cautious than to be forthcoming.

Why did you resign as Congress president?

P V Narasimha Rao Ever since the electoral defeat there have been murmurings -- in some cases, very loud murmurings -- about a change in leadership.

There is nothing new about this. It happens every time when there is a defeat. And it is to be expected of a big organisation like the Congress where people often have their own motivation because nothing moves in the Congress without motivation.

This had been going on and I was prepared to face it when this court case was dragged out of the archives. I believe that the charges are baseless and I knew that I had nothing to worry about on that score. But after one full round in the courts, I was beginning to feel embarrassed.

Embarrassed in what way?

There seemed to be, on the part of the courts, a reluctance to do away with the complaint without going through the trial stage.

Our position was that there was no material to base even the issuance of summons on. But though they did not specifically say this, we got the feeling that the court wanted us to go through the trial stage to prove this. They were suggesting that if we believed that the case was baseless, then we should go to court to prove it.

We spent two months arguing our case and when it looked as though we would have to go through another round of this, I felt awkward about doing this as Congress president.


Home | News | Business | Sport | Movies | Chat
Travel | Planet X | Freedom | Computers

Copyright 1996 Rediff On The Net
All rights reserved