Left had ditched Sonia in govt formation bid in 1999: Gujral

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New Delhi, Feb 20 (PTI) It is well known thatSamajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav''s open declarationagainst Sonia Gandhi scuttled Congress'' chances of coming topower at the fall of the BJP-led NDA government in April 1999.

But it was actually the late Harkishen Singh Surjeet and theLeft parties that ditched her and forced her to call off herplans to form a government then.

This as-yet-unknown facet of the heady developments ofthe summer of 1999 has been revealed by former Prime MinisterI K Gujral in his just-released autobiography "Matters ofDiscretion" which also throws light on the "hawks" in theCongress who forced the toppling of the United Frontgovernment in 1997 against the presence of DMK ministers afterthe Jain Commission report indictment of the party linking itto the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Incidentally, the DMK is the second biggest ally ofthe Congress in the UPA coalition at the Centre now.

91-year-old Gujral writes in vivid detail the hecticpolitical developments leading to the collapse of hisshort-lived four-month government in November of 1997 afterthe Jain Commission report was leaked to a news magazine inDelhi by M C Jain, a retired judge of the Rajasthan HighCourt.

Just after the fall of the NDA government on April 17,1999 by just one vote, Gujral writes in his book published byHay House India that he and Ram Vilas Paswan, who was aminister under him, came under a lot of pressure from the BJPto support the NDA. Defeated Prime Minister Atal BihariVajpayee and BJP leader Jaswant Singh came over to persuadehim.

The BJP also sent Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badalto meet him and tried to put pressure through TDP chief NChandrababu Naidu, who was then supporting the BJP.

"At this juncture," he recalls, "Harkishen SinghSurjeet came up with the name of Sonia Gandhi and persuadedher to make a bid to form the next government. Sonia came overto my residence on April 20, 1999 for a cup of coffee.

"Hers was basically a courtesy call to ask for mysupport. I told her very frankly that while I would supporther candidature for prime ministership, she would be let downby her friends in the Left at the last moment. I added thatshe was being naive if she thought that Surjeet was seriouslybacking her.

"In fact, their ''hidden horse'' was Jyoti Basu who hadbeen convinced by Surjeet to enter the fray for the top postin case of a deadlock," writes Gujral. More PTI VSC SC

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