'Rajiv Gandhi called Manmohan Singh a Joker in public'

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Bangalore, Jul 20: Indians were shocked when international media criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but it seems that more shocking facts have been kept in store for them. A book written by the then Union Home Secretary, CG Somiah stated that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had insulted Dr Singh by calling him "Joker" in public.

The book -The Honest Always Stand Alone is the autobiography of Somiah who retired as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Somiah's autobiography described many incidents including the anecdotes between Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh.

Somiah recalled the time when the seventh five-year plan for the period 1985-1990 was under development. Manmohan Singh was the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and Rajiv Gandhi was its ex-officio Chairman, stated Somiah.

The book claimed that both Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh conveyed two different opinions in meeting. While the former wanted to develop an urbanised culture in India, the latter was determined to concentrate on the "real condition of India".

"He (Rajiv Gandhi) wanted us to plan for the construction of autobahns, airfields, speedy trains, shopping malls and entertainment centres of excellence, big housing complexes, modern hospitals and healthcare centres," reads the book.

On the contrary, Dr Singh and his team had taken decisions which failed to impress Rajiv Gandhi who was the city-bred and foreign-educated. Somiah, who was the Member Secretary of the Planning Commission, wrote in his book, "The broad consensus that emerged was that the Prime Minister was urban-centric without any knowledge of the socially and financially backward condition of the vast population living in the rural areas."

According to Somiah, Dr Singh, in the next meeting, explained the negative economic indicators prevalent in the country but Rajiv was disappointed with Team Manmohan and had made some derogatory remarks.

"A few days later, the Prime Minister shared his thoughts with journalists, calling us a 'bunch of jokers' who were bereft of any modern ideas of development," reads the book.

Rajiv Gandhi's remarks allegedly had hurt Dr Singh who decided to put down his papers, stated Somiah. Describing the situation, Somiah said, "I sat with him for nearly an hour and told him not to take the extreme step and blamed the Prime Minister's ignorance for this behaviour. I further advised that since the Prime Minister was young and inexperienced, it was our duty to educate him rather than abandon him. I was finally able to convince him not to act hastily and that was my good deed for the day."

The book clearly has revealed several shocking unheard stories. However, there were no comments from Dr Singh either confirming or denying the incidents as it has been described in the book.

Recently, US based Time Magazine and UK's newspaper The Independent criticised Dr Singh by calling him "underachiever" and "Sonia's poodle", respectively.

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