Former Rajasthan governor Margaret Alva has disclosed that late Shankar Dayal Sharma, who later went on to become the President of India, was Sonia Gandhi’s first choice as Prime Minister in 1991 but he refused on age and health grounds. In an interview to HT, Alva says PV Narasimha Rao finally became the Prime Minister after several rounds of consultations and with Sonia’s blessings.
Q: You are saying Shankar Daya Sharma was Sonia Gandhi’s first choice for the Prime Minister’s post. What had happened?
A: Shankar Dayal Sharmaji refused because he did not want it. He said his age and health does not permit him. Later, PV became the PM after consultations within the party. You know in the party consensus emerges, compromises are worked out, you promise to do something here and something there. One of the promises made by PV was that he will give up the party presidentship after becoming the PM but he never gave it up. Arjun Singh wanted to become the party chief. And that was the reason how their relations got spoiled.
Q: You have narrated an incident in the book that at Canberra in Australia a Member of Parliament tried to pull a housekeeper into bed with him after he presumed that she had been sent by the hotel for the night and this resulted in unexpected crisis?
A: He mistook the services that were offered by the hotel. We landed in quite a mess but we sorted it out. It was a huge embarrassment. We apologised and explained what had happened. Of course, we left the hotel early morning before the press could get to us. But yes he was not from the Congress party.
Q: After your expulsion from the Congress, how are your relations with Sonia Gandhi?
A: She stayed with me for two days in Dehradun when I was Uttarakhand governor. We have been very close even after I resigned on the Karnataka issue.
Q: You have said that you managed several non-Congress votes for Pranab Mukherjee in 2012 presidential elections? Who were they?
A: I can say very proudly that I got 18 votes for him from other political parties. I also spoke to 2-3 non-Congress chief ministers who were personal friends.