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2 letters that Kalam wrote, and junked

Now, nine months after Kalam relinquished presidency, their contents are about to be made public, reports Neelesh Misra.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2008 13:46 IST
Neelesh Misra

Two years apart during the presidency of APJ Abdul Kalam, two letters of great political importance were typed out at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

<b1>One letter appointed Sonia Gandhi as prime minister of India, after the declaration of results of the 2004 Lok Sabha election. The second letter was the president’s resignation, written as he agonised over the turmoil that followed the dissolution of the Bihar assembly.

Both letters went into the waste paper basket. Now, nine months after Kalam relinquished office, their contents — and the circumstances of their writing — are about to be made public.

A book set to hit stores on Monday, The Kalam Effect: My Years with the President, written by PM Nair, Kalam’s secretary throughout his term, details several unknown facts from the eventful tenure of the ‘People’s President’.

On the night of May 23, 2005, Kalam, then on a state visit to Russia, had a 20-minute phone conversation with PM Manmohan Singh. Then, in the presidential suite of Moscow’s Kempinski Hotel, he signed the papers endorsing the cabinet’s dissolution of the Bihar house.

In January 2006, the Supreme Court ruled the dissolution unconstitutional. There was outrage, and calls for the president’s head.

“Poor Kalam… was down in the dumps. The days that followed were grim and the atmosphere in Rashtrapati Bhavan gloomy,” Nair writes.

One day, Kalam called Nair to his room. The president had written his resignation. “I sat down and he looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Mr Nair, I have decided something.’

“I knew what he had decided because the hand pointing to his pocket said it all,” Nair writes. “Kalam added: ‘No, Mr Nair, don’t say anything. I have taken a decision according to my conscience.’”

Two days later, however, Nair had succeeded in talking him out of it. Kalam was happy. “‘Mr. Nair,’ he said, ‘I wish you had represented me in the Supreme Court!’”

The other letter had been written two years earlier, after the 2004 elections returned a divided verdict. Media reports said Sonia Gandhi had the support to become prime minister.

Kalam wrote a letter to Sonia on May 17, inviting her to meet him the same day.

The plan was as follows: Nair would wait with a letter appointing her as prime minister in an ante room near the study in which Kalam and Sonia would meet; Kalam would ring a bell, Nair would walk in, and she would be named PM.

The letter was prepared. Sonia came, but brought Manmohan Singh along. Nair waited impatiently for the bell to ring. It finally did.

“I hurried out with the papers — only to see Sonia Gandhi and Dr Singh leaving. I ran into the study,” Nair writes. Sonia ultimately stepped aside for Singh. The letter was discarded, and a new one was drawn up.