In the first interview he has given since he demitted office as prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh has said that its “a complete canard” that Dr APJ Adbul Kalam, as president, was reluctant to appoint Sonia Gandhi as prime minister. Dr Manmohan Singh said this is “totally untrue and I cannot understand how this story has spread.”
In the interview to the India Today TV programme To The Point broadcast on Wednesday, Manmohan Singh confirmed that APJ Abdul Kalam had given him great support during the run up to the Indo-US nuclear deal and, specifically added, that Dr Kalam had spoken to Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh to persuade them to support the deal rather than vote against it. As Dr Manmohan Singh put it, he suggested to Mr Mulayam Singh that he should go meet Dr Kalam. Dr Manmohan Singh added that Dr Kalam had “totally endorsed” the nuclear deal.
Dr Manmohan Singh also speaks about the dissolution of the Bihar Assembly in 2005 which was subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. In the interview Dr Manmohan Singh talks about how he rang Dr Kalam, who was in Russia at the time, the initial doubts Dr Kalam had and how in a substantive and lengthy conversation Dr Manmohan Singh had addressed them.
Dr Manmohan Singh is also questioned about Dr Kalam’s revelations in his book ‘Turning Points” that after the Supreme Court struck down the dissolution Dr Kalam’s conscience told him he must resign but Dr Manmohan Singh persuaded him not to.
Dr Manmohan Singh is also questioned about the fact that in August 2002, just days or weeks after he took over as president, Dr Kalam insisted on visiting Gujarat even though Mr Vajpayee was reluctant he should do so. In response Dr Manmohan Singh spoke of the great focus and attention Dr Kalam would pay to communal issues and revealed that these were frequently discussed between him as prime minister and Dr Kalam as president.
Dr Manmohan Singh also was questioned about the office of profit bill which Dr Kalam, as president, returned to Parliament for reconsideration because he wanted a more systematic approach to decide what was and what was not an office of profit.
Dr Manmohan Singh spoke of the “great trust and friendship” between him and Dr Kalam and called Dr Kalam “his friend, philosopher and guide”. He said they had wide ranging and often probing conversations but Dr Kalam meticulously ensured that, as president, he never crossed any redlines.
Dr Manmohan Singh called Dr Kalam one of India’s greatest presidents and said that not being political was not in any way a handicap. He said Dr Kalam was deeply curious about and interested in development issues. Dr Manmohan Singh in the interview gives examples of times when Dr Kalam made important suggestions which the government took on board.
Dr Manmohan Singh said he has known Dr Kalam since the mid ’70s and described him as the “mastermind” and “architect” of India’s missile programme.
Dr Manmohan Singh also spoke about Dr Kalam’s personality. He talked about his absorbing conversations, his warmth as well as his caring nature. Dr Manmohan Singh spoke about the incredible concern and affection Dr Kalam had for children. He spoke of Dr Kalam’s deep interest in science and spirituality, adding that this combination made Dr Kalam “a unique person”.
Although Dr Manmohan Singh would not say that after Dr Kalam India needed more non-political presidents he did readily agree that Dr Kalam had set a very high precedent and more than fulfilled the first experiment of making a non-political person the president.
All of the above is being recalled from memory and is a paraphrase. Please check the interview on broadcast at 7.45pm (or possibly earlier because an earlier broadcast is likely sometime after 5.00pm) for accuracy.
There is a lot more in the interview than what I have recalled and repeated from memory.