My article “Haksar, Manmohan and Sonia” appeared today as an op-ed with the New Indian Express http://t.co/bRnQI1hrwy
In the summer of 1973, my father, then with India’s embassy in Paris, brought home two visiting colleagues separately, to advise me before I headed to undergraduate studies at the LSE. One was G Parthasarathi, India’s envoy in Karachi during the 1965 war [CORRECTION Nov 2015: Parthasarathi had left shortly before the war; Kewal Singh arrived as the war started] when my father had been acting head in Dhaka; G P was marvelous, strictly advising I do the hardest things I could find at LSE, namely mathematical economics. The other visitor was Manmohan Singh.
Manmohan, then in his early 40s, asked to meet me alone, and we plunged quickly into a heated debate about the demerits (as I saw them) and merits (as he saw them) of the USSR and its “planning”. He was taken aback by the lad, and at the end of his 40-minute visit said he would write to his friend Amartya Sen at LSE about me. An ambiguous, hardly laudatory letter of introduction to Amartya arrived, which I duly but reluctantly carried; I wish I had kept a copy but xeroxing was not yet a word back then.
When I told my father about the debate, he to my surprise said Manmohan was extremely highly thought of in government circles, had degrees from both Cambridge and Oxford, and was expected to become prime minister of India some day!
That prediction, more than 30 years before Manmohan did become India’s PM, was almost certainly a reflection of the opinion of P N Haksar, still at the height of his power as Indira Gandhi’s right-hand man. In a 2005 interview with Mark Tully, Manmohan acknowledged Haksar being his mentor in politics who brought him into government in early 1971. My father himself was sent by Haksar to the Paris embassy in anticipation of Indira’s November 1971 visit on her diplomatic tour before the Bangladesh War.
Fast forward to the afternoon of March 22, 1991, at Delhi’s Andhra Bhavan. I had met Rajiv Gandhi through S S Ray on September 18, 1990, and given him results of a perestroika-for-India project I had led at the University of Hawaii since 1986. On September 25, 1990, Rajiv formed a group consisting of Gen K V Krishna Rao, M K Rasgotra, V Krishnamurthy, S Pitroda and myself to write a modern agenda and manifesto for elections Rajiv said he expected by April 1991. Krishnamurthy later brought in A M Khusro to the group, and all these persons were present at the March 22 meeting—when I was unexpectedly challenged by Rasgotra demanding to know what Manmohan Singh would say about all this liberalisation and efficiency (and public goods, etc.) I had proposed.
That was the first mention of Manmohan in post-Indira politics. I replied I did not know what he would say but knew he had been on a project for Julius Nyerere, that the main thing was to get the world to see the Congress at least knew its economics and wanted to improve India’s woeful credit-standing.
The next day, on the lawns of 10 Jan Path, Rajiv launched Krishna Rao’s book titled Prepare or Perish. Rajiv was introduced on the occasion by none other than P N Haksar. I talked to Haksar briefly, mentioning his sending my father to Paris in 1971 and my father’s old friends the Kaul brothers, the elder being Haksar’s brother-in-law and the younger being Manmohan’s first boss in government. Haksar seemed unwell but was clearly delighted to have returned to favour after falling out with Indira during Sanjay’s regime.
The March 22, 1991, meeting was also one of several occasions when I, a complete layman on security issues and new to Delhi and in my 30s, warned as vehemently as I could that Rajiv seemed to my layman’s eyes extremely vulnerable to assassination. Absolutely nothing was done in response by anyone, other than saying I should probably speak to “Madame”!
One man’s response, in 2007 and 2014 publications, has been to deny he knew me at all and claim the group came to exist without me—when in fact it was created by Rajiv as a sounding board one week after I gave him the academic project results I had led since 1986. This same man had excitedly revealed to me on September 25, 1990, that his claim to a doctoral degree originated in the USSR in the 1970s; he has always concealed his experiences in that country. After Rajiv’s assassination, he rose to much background influence with Sonia, and one of his protégés is now apparently influential with Mr Modi too.
Sonia Gandhi I met only once to convey my condolences in December 1991, and give her a copy of a tape of conversations between Rajiv and myself during the Gulf war in January that year. She seemed a taciturn figure in deep grief, and apparently continued with the seven-year period of mourning traditional in her culture of origin.
Natwar Singh and Sanjaya Baru, in their recent publications, may have allowed basic misinterpretations of events to distract from what may be informative in their experience.
Natwar has said Haksar was central in May 1991 in the move (purportedly on behalf of Rajiv’s newly bereaved widow) to first ask S D Sharma to take the PM’s job, which Sharma declined. If so, this was a failed attempt by the “Haksar axis” of unelected non-politicians to maintain control of events. Natwar claims it was only then Sonia chose P V N Rao. In reality, P V N R was a highly respected leader who, though due to retire, was the acknowledged senior member in a group of regional leaders including S S Ray, Sharad Pawar and others. The Haksar axis failed to stop P V N R’s rise to the top job, though it managed to get Haksar’s protégé to become finance minister. Sonia was hardly involved.
As for Manmohan becoming Sonia’s PM, a senior Lok Sabha Congress leader with PM ambitions himself told me of his own accord in December 2001 that it was certain she would not take the top job herself and it was generally presumed Manmohan would get one term—the denouement of the Haksarian prediction my father made to me in 1973 in Paris. Contrary to Baru’s claim or even Manmohan’s own self-knowledge, it was never any “accident” that he became PM of India.
Finally on the issue of files being shown, the man named as the conduit is someone I became related to in law back in 1981. He and Manmohan, too, would have been sticklers for the rules. The real issue is this: given the 1970s brand of Soviet influence on the Congress, would anyone have said it was Kosygin as PM who did or could ever wield more power than Brezhnev the party boss? Of course not. The same with Manmohan and Sonia in India.
is someone who has known you, leading up to your appointment as Director at Sonia’s “Rajiv Gandhi Institute” and later. He has now published a purported memoir whose main aim is to conceal his Soviet connections during the Brezhnev era 1960s-1970s, besides trying to rub my name out from my role with Rajiv in 1990-1991. The woman journalist in Delhi who is named as having ghost-written his new book is someone you know quite well too.
The man was someone whom I worked with and who was introduced to me by Rajiv Gandhi on 25/9/1990, a Soviet trained “technocrat” who had inveigled himself into Rajiv’s circle as he had been a favoured one of Indira (presumably via PN Haksar) when he returned from the USSR. He was also the link explaining, again via PN Haksar, how Manmohan first became FM in 1991 after Rajiv’s assassination, then how Manmohan came to Sonia’s notice and attention, and was later crucial in the so-called Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and in the formation of Sonia’s so-called National Advisory Council.
His mandate was to keep INC policies predictable and agreeable in the areas of Soviet/Russian interest, in which he seems to have succeeded during the Sonia-Manmohan regime.
He found me an unknown force, and worked to edge me out, despite the fact the 25/9/90 group was formed by Rajiv as a sounding-board for the perestroika-for-India project I led in America since 1986 and which I brought to Rajiv the week before on 18/9/90…
I send this to you as a word of caution as you are clearly close to Mr Modi and Mr Doval, yet none of you may know the man’s background and intent, even in his dotage. Certainly the purported memoir written by the woman journalist is something whose main aim is to conceal the man’s Soviet/Russian background. Had it been an honest intent, he would have had no need to conceal any of this but would have addressed his own Russian experience openly and squarely. He may have had his impact already with the new Government, I do not know.
For myself, I have been openly rather pro-Russia on the merits of the current Ukraine issue, but, as you will appreciate, I despise any kind of deep foreign agent seeking to control Indian policy in long-term concealment.
Sonia’s Lying Courtier with Postscript 25 Nov 2007, & Addendum 30 June 2014
30th June 2014
“Sonia’s Lying Courtier” (see below) has now lied again! In a ghost-written 2014 book published by a prominent publisher in Delhi!
He has so skilfully lied about himself the ghost writer was probably left in the dark too about the truth.
**The largest concealment has to do with his Soviet connection: he is fluent in Russian, lived as a privileged guest of the state there, and before returning to the Indian public sector was awarded in the early 1970s a Soviet degree, supposedly an earned doctorate in Soviet style management!**
How do I know? He told me so personally! His Soviet degree is what allowed himself to pass off as a “Dr” in Delhi power-circles for decades, as did many others who were planted in that era. He has also lied about himself and Rajiv Gandhi in 1990-1991, and hence he has lied about me indirectly.
In 2007 I was gentle in my exposure of his mendacity because of his advanced age. Now it is more and more clear to me that exposing this directly may be the one way for Sonia and her son to realise how they, and hence the Congress party, were themselves influenced without knowing it for years…
25 November 2007
Two Sundays ago in an English-language Indian newspaper, an elderly man in his 80s, advertised as being “the Gandhi family’s favourite technocrat” published some deliberate falsehoods about events in Delhi 17 years ago surrounding Rajiv Gandhi’s last months. I wrote at once to the man, let me call him Mr C, asking him to correct the falsehoods since, after all, it was possible he had stated them inadvertently or thoughtlessly or through faulty memory. He did not do so. I then wrote to a friend of his, a Congress Party MP from his State, who should be expected to know the truth, and I suggested to him that he intercede with his friend to make the corrections, since I did not wish, if at all possible, to be compelled to call an elderly man a liar in public.
That did not happen either and hence I am, with sadness and regret, compelled to call Mr C a liar.
The newspaper article reported that Mr C’s “relationship with Rajiv (Gandhi) would become closer when (Rajiv) was out of power” and that Mr C “was part of a group that brainstormed with Rajiv every day on a different subject”. Mr C has reportedly said Rajiv’s “learning period came after he left his job” as PM, and “the others (in the group)” were Mr A, Mr B, Mr D, Mr E “and Manmohan Singh” (italics added).
In reality, Mr C was a retired pro-USSR bureaucrat aged in his late 60s in September 1990 when Rajiv Gandhi was Leader of the Opposition and Congress President. Manmohan Singh was an about-to-retire bureaucrat who in September 1990 was not physically present in India, having been working for Julius Nyerere of Tanzania for several years.
On 18 September 1990, upon recommendation of Siddhartha Shankar Ray, Rajiv Gandhi met me at 10 Janpath, where I handed him a copy of the unpublished results of an academic “perestroika-for-India” project I had led at the University of Hawaii since 1986. The story of that encounter has been told first on July 31-August 2 1991 in The Statesman, then in the October 2001 issue of Freedom First, then in January 6-8 2006, September 23-24 2007 in The Statesman, and most recently in The Statesman Festival Volume 2007. The last of these speaks most fully yet of my warnings against Rajiv’s vulnerability to assassination; this document in unpublished form was sent by me to Rajiv’s friend, Mr Suman Dubey in July 2005, who forwarded it with my permission to the family of Rajiv Gandhi.
It was at the 18 September 1990 meeting that I suggested to Rajiv that he should plan to have a modern election manifesto written. The next day, 19 September, I was asked by Rajiv’s assistant V George to stay in Delhi for a few days as Mr Gandhi wished me to meet some people. I was not told whom I was to meet but that there would be a meeting on Monday, 24th September. On Saturday, the Monday meeting was postponed to Tuesday 25th September because one of the persons had not been able to get a flight into Delhi. I pressed to know what was going on, and was told I would meet Mr A, Mr B, Mr C and Mr D. It turned out later Mr A was the person who could not fly in from Hyderabad.
The group (excluding Mr B who failed to turn up because his servant had failed to give him the right message) met Rajiv at 10 Janpath in the afternoon of 25th September. We were asked by Rajiv to draft technical aspects of a modern manifesto for an election that was to be expected in April 1991. The documents I had given Rajiv a week earlier were distributed to the group. The full story of what transpired has been told in my previous publications.
Mr C was ingratiating towards me after that first meeting with Rajiv and insisted on giving me a ride in his car which he told me was the very first Maruti ever manufactured. He flattered me needlessly by saying that my PhD (in economics from Cambridge University) was real whereas his own doctoral degree had been from a dubious management institute of the USSR. (Handling out such doctoral degrees was apparently a standard Soviet way of gaining influence.) Mr C has not stated in public how his claim to the title of “Dr” arises.
Following that 25 September 1990 meeting, Mr C did absolutely nothing for several months towards the purpose Rajiv had set us, stating he was very busy with private business in his home-state where he flew to immediately. Mr D went abroad and was later hit by severe illness. Mr B, Mr A and I met for luncheon at New Delhi’s Andhra Bhavan where the former explained how he had missed the initial meeting. Then Mr B said he was very busy with his house-construction, and Mr A said he was very busy with finishing a book for his publishers on Indian defence, and both begged off, like Mr C and Mr D, from any of the work that Rajiv had explicitly set our group. My work and meeting with Rajiv in October 1990 has been reported previously.
Mr C has not merely suppressed my name from the group in what he has published in the newspaper article two Sundays ago, he has stated he met Rajiv as part of such a group “every day on a different subject”, another falsehood. The next meeting of the group with Rajiv was in fact only in December 1990, when the Chandrashekhar Government was discussed. I was called by telephone in the USA by Rajiv’s assistant V George but I was unable to attend, and was briefed later about it by Mr A.
When new elections were finally announced in March 1991, Mr C brought in Mr E into the group in my absence (so he told me), perhaps in the hope I would remain absent. But I returned to Delhi and between March 18 1991 and March 22 1991, our group, including Mr E (who did have a genuine PhD), produced an agreed-upon document. That document was handed over by us together in a group to Rajiv Gandhi at 10 Janpath the next day, and also went to the official political manifesto committee of Narasimha Rao, Pranab Mukherjee and M. Solanki.
Our group, as appointed by Rajiv on 25 September 1990, came to an end with the submission of the desired document to Rajiv on 23 March 1991.
As for Manmohan Singh, contrary to Mr C’s falsehood, Manmohan Singh has himself truthfully said he was with the Nyerere project until November 1990, then joined Chandrashekhar’s PMO in December 1990 which he left in March 1991, that he had no meeting with Rajiv Gandhi prior to Rajiv’s assassination but rather did not in fact enter Indian politics at all until invited by Narasimha Rao several weeks later to be Finance Minister. In other words, Manmohan Singh himself is on record stating facts that demonstrate Mr C’s falsehood.
The economic policy sections of the document submitted to Rajiv on 23 March 1991 had been drafted largely by myself with support of Mr E and Mr D and Mr C as well. It was done over the objections of Mr B, who had challenged me by asking what Manmohan Singh would think of it. I had replied I had no idea what Manmohan Singh would think of it, saying I knew he had been out of the country on the Nyerere project for some years.
Mr C has deliberately excluded my name from the group and deliberately added Manmohan Singh’s instead. What explains this attempted falsification of facts – reminiscent of totalitarian practices in communist countries? Manmohan Singh was not involved by his own admission, and as Finance Minister told me so directly when he and I were introduced in Washington DC in September 1993 by Siddhartha Shankar Ray, then Indian Ambassador to the USA.
A possible explanation for Mr C’s mendacity is as follows: I have been recently publishing the fact that I repeatedly pleaded warnings that I (even as a layman on security issues) perceived Rajiv Gandhi to have been insecure and vulnerable to assassination. Mr C, Mr B and Mr A were among the main recipients of my warnings and my advice as to what we as a group, appointed by Rajiv, should have done towards protecting Rajiv better. They did nothing — though each of them was a senior man then aged in his late 60s at the time and fully familiar with Delhi’s workings while I was a 35 year old newcomer. After Rajiv was assassinated, I was disgusted with what I had seen of the Congress Party and Delhi, and did not return except to meet Rajiv’s widow once in December 1991 to give her a copy of a tape in which her late husband’s voice was recorded in conversations with me during the Gulf War.
Mr C has inveigled himself into Sonia Gandhi’s coterie – while Manmohan Singh went from being mentioned in our group by Mr B to becoming Narasimha Rao’s Finance Minister and Sonia Gandhi’s Prime Minister. If Rajiv had not been assassinated, Sonia Gandhi would have been merely a happy grandmother today and not India’s purported ruler. India would also have likely not have been the macroeconomic and political mess that the mendacious people around Sonia Gandhi like Mr C have now led it towards.
POSTSCRIPT: The Congress MP was kind enough to write in shortly afterwards; he confirmed he “recognize(d) that Rajivji did indeed consult you in 1990-1991 about the future direction of economic policy.” A truth is told and, furthermore, the set of genuine Rajivists in the present Congress Party is identified as non-null.
The search engine above should locate any article by its title; the Index and Archives may be used as well.
Readers are welcome to quote from my work under the normal “fair use” rule, but please try to quote me by name and indicate the place of original publication in case of work being republished here. I am at Twitter @subyroy, see my latest tweets above