By Prashant Sood, New Delhi, Aug 7 IANS | 4 months ago

The main reason the Congress has shrunk is that it is a "one-woman show" and no one dares to say "I don't agree with you" to party president Sonia Gandhi, former party leader K. Natwar Singh has said.

In an interview with IANS after the release of his autobiography "One Life is not Enough", Natwar Singh said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a "leader" and "a great speaker" and had made the right start in foreign policy by giving priority to India's neighbourhood.

Natwar Singh, 83, said Sonia Gandhi and her son and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi were to blame for the party's massive defeat in the Lok Sabha polls when its tally fell to 44 seats from 206 it won in 2009.

The Congress has "become a one-woman show", said the former external affairs minister.

"Nobody can say (to Sonia Gandhi) 'I don't agree with you'," Natwar Singh told IANS at his residence.

He said no one in the Congress Working Committee, the party's highest decision making body, expresses any disagreement with Sonia Gandhi. "That is the Congress culture (now). I do not see it changing."

Natwar Singh said there should be scope for dissent and disagreement, and it had been so in the party for years.

"There used to be debate. Maulana (Abul Kalam Azad) would say, 'Jawahar, I don't agree with you'. Sardar Patel would say, 'Jawahar, I don't agree with you'."

Asked if Sonia Gandhi tolerated dissent, he said: "The question does not arise.

"She does not have to make an effort or tell somebody. It is understood. You can't say, 'Madam, I don't agree with you'. No one says, 'Madam, the decision you have taken is wrong. I don't agree with you.' (This is) out of question."

Natwar Singh said he, however, was forthright in conveying his views to her.

"I am the only chap who defied her... I was so close to her. We used to sit for hours," he said, adding he advised her on appointments of chief ministers and Rajya Sabha nominees.

Natwar Singh said while the Congress had been on the decline for some time, the slide was "very dramatic" in the 2014 parliamentary elections.

He said there had been expectations from Rahul Gandhi.

"Who's responsibility is it?" he asked of the Congress electoral rout. "At the same time, if Rahul and Sonia withdraw, it (party's tally) will come down from 44 to four."

Natwar Singh, who was in the Congress for 24 years after nearly three decades in the Indian Foreign Service, resigned as external affairs minister following the oil-for-food scam in Iraq in 2005 which named him among many others globally who allegedly benefited from oil contracts.

Natwar Singh reiterated that Rahul Gandhi does not have fire in the belly. "He doesn't. His biggest test was the 2014 election. Politics is not a part-time job."

Natwar Singh said Modi "did not put a foot wrong" in Brazil during the BRICS Summit -- and had won over Nepal.
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Asked if Modi will make a successful prime minister, Natwar Singh answered: "Absolutely!"

"He is a leader. Manmohan Singh is not... He (Modi) outshone everybody in the BJP. He left the Congress 10 miles behind. His campaign was brilliantly conducted."

(Posted on 07-08-2014)

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