I am not sycophant, says Arjun; defends his remarks on Rahul

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New Delhi, May 12 (UNI) Barely a day after he swore his loyalty to the Gandhi-Nehru family in an apparent attempt to mend fences with the Congress top leadership, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh today claimed he was not a sycophant, but stuck to his earlier remarks that Rahul Gandhi is the ''future PM material''.

''Whether somebody agrees to it or not, I think AICC knows that I am not a sycophant,'' the veteran Congress leader, who has been in a spot for making a series of controversial and headlines-grabbing comments on the functioning of the party leadership, told 'Aaj Tak' TV channel.

Mr Singh was reacting to a query on the recent statement from the All India Congress Committee (AICC) that the ''Gandhi-Nehru family does not like sycophants.'' ''I don' even know whether those remarks were for me or not.

Those remarks must be for someone else,'' he said.

He, however, refused to comment on his observations in his recently launched biography 'Mohin Kahan Vishram' (No Rest for Me) about the decision-making process in the party. He merely stated that he never wrote the book and it was someone else's observations.

The AICC statement came in the wake of Mr Singh's suggestion that Rahul Gandhi be made the next Prime Minister. The AICC, while slamming his stand, had maintained that the party had no place for sycophancy and had appreciated the contribution of Dr Manmohan Singh.

During the interview, Mr Singh also brished aside the reports that he had been sidelined in the party.

Asked whether his remarks had made the headlines because some people in the Congress were against him or the recent trend of ''off the record'' briefings, he said, ''Off the record briefings have been institutionalised and I am neither bothered nor I am interested to know who all are doing it.'' Defending his earlier remarks on projecting Rahul Gandhi as a prime ministerial candidate, Mr Singh sought to clarify by saying that ''it was in some context. I was answering to a query from media personnel who had sought my views on the issue that Rahul Gandhi is being projected as prime ministerial candidate.'' ''I simply asked them why should he (Rahul) not be projected as the PM candidate. That never meant that I was advocating for a replacement. Obviously there is no vacancy at this moment but what will happen in future who knows? The PM himself said that Rahul Gandhi is the future leader.'' The HRD Minister also said Rahul Gandhi is the 'future PM material' and he stood by his earlier statement.

On being asked if there was any truth in the reports whether Rahul Gandhi is not happy with the ways he is running his ministry, Mr Singh said, ''I have never heard from Rahul on this issue till date. Jumping on conclusion will not be appropriate at this moment.'' Does he believe that there is a coterie around Congress president Sonia Gandhi which influences her decision-making process? ''I have not come across any such incident,'' he remarked.

Yesterday, in a signed statement, Mr Singh said he would like to put it on record that when he met Pt Jawaharlal Nehru in March 1960, he pledged his total loyalty to him and his family.

''This was the commitment which is an article of faith with me.

For the past 48 years of my life, I have scrupulously adhered to it.

I shall also do everything to maintain the loyalty and commitment to the remaining members of the family till I live,'' he said.

Referring to the controversy raised by the book, written by Dr K L Nandan and presented to President Pratibha Patil on May 9, the HRD Minister expressed pain at the issues raised and described these as ''needless and irrelevant.'' ''This is now a closed chapter as far as I am concerned,'' Mr Singh said.

In the book, he was quoted as saying that the decision-making process in the Congress had got ''disintegrated'' unlike in the past when there was more scope to be free and involved.

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