Many right-wing hacks and xenophobes went to town after the 2004 general elections with rumours -- I repeat, they were just rumours -- that President Kalam nixed Ms. Gandhi's 'illegal attempt' to become PM. Now, a forthcoming book by P.M. Nair, Kalam's secretary at that time, reveals what really happened.
Kalam was told [by his aides] that Gandhi will come with letters of support from different parties. "You do not have to read all of those. Just leaf through them and ring the bell," Nair suggested to the President, saying he would be in the adjacent ADC's room with the letter appointing Gandhi as Prime Minister.
"Please sign it, shake hands with her and congratulate her. You should also ask when she would like to be sworn in," Nair advised Kalam who said "Okay". ...
Nair says contrary to the rumour doing the rounds then, there was no suggestion at all from Kalam to Sonia not to become Prime Minister.
With the issue of Gandhi's foreign origin being raked up, there were speculative reports in the media that the President had advised the Congress chief against occupying the key post.
The Kalam-Gandhi meetings were brief and courteous, the only purpose being to hand over the letter appointing Gandhi as Prime Minister, recalls Nair.
Gandhi's meeting with Kalam was fixed for 12.15 p.m. on May 18. Gandhi arrived with Manmohan Singh. "I waited in the ADC's room, alert for the bell, armed with the letter (yet to be signed) from the President appointing her the Prime Minister of India.
Minutes ticked. The bell rang. I hurried out with the papers -- only to see Gandhi and Singh leaving," recounts Nair.
Kalam then told Nair "you told me she would come with letters of support, but she came just for discussions. She said she would come again tomorrow with the letters of support from other parties".
The President, recalls Nair, said he had told Gandhi "why wait till tomorrow? I am available any time this afternoon or this evening. You please come as soon as you are ready with the papers. My papers are ready for you".
The message came that Gandhi would meet the President at 8.15 p.m. on the next day, May 19.
Precisely at 8.15 p.m., Gandhi drove in along with Singh. "I waited in the anteroom. The moments ticked by. The bell rang, and I went in.
"The President told me that he had been informed that Manmohan Singh would be the leader of the Congress party. The letter said he was nominated as the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party and as the prime ministerial candidate of the party. Letters of support from other parties were also there," Nair wrote.
Nair said he then went back to change the letter since Singh was being appointed Prime Minister. Singh stood by in all humility and thanked Gandhi. The President congratulated the Prime Minister-to-be.