A day after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi cold-shouldered him by refusing to acknowledge his presence at a function, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh beat a hasty retreat from his path of confrontation with the party leadership and promised to remain loyal to the “entire” Nehru-Gandhi family.
<b1>The 76-year-old veteran leader said in a statement that he stood by a pledge to Jawaharlal Nehru. “When I met Pandit Jawaharlal Nehruji in March 1960, I pledged my total loyalty to him and his family. This was the commitment, which is an article of faith with me,” he said.
“For the past 48 years of my life, I have scrupulously adhered to it. I shall also do everything to maintain the loyalty and commitment to the remaining members of the family till I live.”
Singh’s statement came even as more Congress leaders who were once his allies and ministers including Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi and his deputy V Narayanasamy flayed him for his earlier remarks. Subhash Yadav, a senior party leader in his home state Madhya Pradesh where polls are scheduled later this year, also did not agree with Singh’s earlier comments — seen as taking potshots at the party leadership.
Singh backed off as he failed to meet the Congress chief to clarify his remarks, and Saturday’s snub was the last straw. Sonia ignored him totally even though she shared the stage with him at the convocation of Jamia Hamdard University.
After Singh’s statement on Sunday, the Congress appeared to be satisfied with AICC spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi telling PTI: “It is for a senior person like Arjun Singh to introspect and he has done so.”
In his statement, Singh said he was “pained at the needless and irrelevant controversies” arising out of the recently released book on him — Mohin Kahan Vishram — and his comments at the book release function on Friday. “This is a closed chapter as far as I am concerned,” he said, adding that he won’t take any more questions on the recent controversies.
Singh said the book was not his autobiography but a compilation of articles written by different people about him from time to time. He said that he was writing his autobiography, which will be published on a future date.
The latest round of controversy began with his interview in the book, in which he said the decision-making process in the party has “fallen in a bit of a disarray”. Singh added more fuel with his remarks at the book release function that the “evaluation of loyalty in the party was now being done in a very narrow context”.
This was seen as an attack on the Congress leadership and prompted several senior party leaders including CWC member RK Dhawan, Digvijay Singh and Ajit Jogi, once close associates of Singh, to attack him. Ravi went to the extent of saying that Congressmen criticising the leadership usually receive a show cause notice.
Trouble for Singh had been brewing since he was seen as creating problems for the Manmohan Singh government on the issue of OBC quota in educational institutions. Then he was snubbed for his remark that Rahul Gandhi should be the prime minister. Singh’s unhappiness was seen as getting deeper, especially with talk that Rahul disagrees with his handling of the HRD Ministry and would prefer someone else to take over.