OneIndia Exclusive: Amid ‘shelling’ by politicians in Delhi, Dr Kalam flew Sukhoi

By: Dr Anantha Krishnan M
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Bengaluru, Dec 18: When New Delhi was hit by the constant ‘shelling' of various political parties over the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2006, popularly known as the Office of Profit Bill, President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam was unmoved and chose to chase one of his unfulfilled dreams of flying a fighter plane.

Dr Kalam dispelled the misconception that Presidents were mere ‘rubber stamps' for the government of the day and demonstrated his total commitment to ethics in public office, says a new book on him.

Dr A P J Abdul Kalam

Authored by writing machine Arun Tiwari, the book titled - A P J Abdul Kalam: A Life - has been rolled out within four months after the demise of former President. Priced at Rs 799, this heavy-lift paper plane with a seating capacity of 551 pages is being flown out of the publishing hangars of Harper Collins.

In the section titled -- I will Fly - the author narrates how, on 16 March 2006, Dr Kalam accepted the recommendation of the Election Commission to disqualify Jaya Bachchan (Samajwadi Party) from the Rajya Sabha for holding an office of profit while being a Member of Parliament.

Dr Kalam strictly acted according to EC's opinion

Sensing trouble and to deflect the opposition onslaught, Congress president Sonia Gandhi resigned her Lok Sabha seat from Rae Bareli, only to a seek a reelection later.

"The phenomenon affected all the parties, which have customarily used the granting of such offices to please their legislators. And since every legislator took enjoying executive offices for granted, no one ever thought that any provision of the Constitution was being violated. Dr Kalam acted strictly according to the opinion of the Election Commission in issuing a disqualification order against Jaya Bachchan," says the book.

Interestingly, in the midst of the drama in Delhi, Dr Kalam was charting a flightpath that promised to fulfil one of his childhood dreams, to fly.

On 8 June 2006, he was at the Lohegaon Air Force Base in Pune co-piloting a Sukhoi with the Wing Commander Ajay Rathore of the famous Lightning Squadron.

"I went up. I went down. I took right and left turns. I did everything that Wg Cdr Rathore told me to do. He is a great teacher. I feel proud that our country has such great and good pilots. I want to give a message to young Indians that they should join the Indian Air Force," said Dr Kalam, soon after the historic flight, as quoted in the book.

When the President fulfilled his childhood dream

Rathore took the flight to about 7.5 km above the ground level and flew at 1.25 Mach. The flight went into twists and turns and also stalled mid-air in order to give Dr Kalam a first-hand experience of the fighter plane's capabilities.

The President is said to have taken the control of the flight for about 10 minutes. The book quotes the pilot as saying that Dr Kalam was in absolute control over the flight in mid-air.

Interestingly, during a conversation just a month before his demise, Dr Kalam told this writer that flying the Sukhoi was one of the most satisfying experiences in his life.

The book goes on to narrate that post his Sukhoi flight, back in Delhi, Dr Kalam got into the thick of action in the company of Constitutional experts, with the Bill hovering around Rashtrapati Bhavan again for his assent.

Arun Tiwari has already co-authored five books with his mentor Dr Kalam, with Wings of Fire being a runway hit from the lot. A P J Abdul Kalam: A Life is expected to hit the stands soon.

(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. Currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow with University of Mysore, he is a Consulting Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)

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