New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam says he was under pressure not to appoint Congress chief Sonia Gandhi as India's prime minister in 2004 and under equal pressure not to succumb to that lobby.
"I had a number of emails and letters coming from individuals, organisations and parties that I should not allow Sonia Gandhi to become the prime minister of our country. I had passed on these emails and letters to various agencies in the government without making any remarks," Kalam says while looking back at his presidency 2002-07 in his new book, "Turning Points: A Journey Through Challenges" (Harper Collins-India).
"During this time, there were many political leaders who came to meet me to request me not to succumb to any pressure and appoint Mrs. Gandhi as the prime minister - a request that would not have been constitutionally tenable," Kalam says in a graphic account of the events leading to the appointment of Manmohan Singh as the country's prime minister.
"If she had made any claim for herself, I would have had no option but to appoint her," Kalam says in the chapter "Controversial Decisions".
"The 2004 election was an interesting event. The elections were over, the results had been announced and none of the parties had the strength to form the government on their own," Kalam says.
The president asked his secretary to rush a letter to the leader of the largest party - in this case the Congress - to come forward and stake claim to forming the government.
"I was told that Sonia Gandhi was meeting me at 12.15 p.m. in the afternoon of May 18. She came in time, but instead of coming alone, she came with Manmohan Singh and had a discussion with me. She said she had the requisite numbers, but she did not bring the letter of support signed by party functionaries," Kalam writes.
Gandhi said "she would come with the letters of support on May 19", but Kalam insisted that the matter could be settled that afternoon.
Later he received a message that she would meet him in the evening at 8.15 pm.
It was in the midst of this that the pressure element came into play.
At the allotted time at 8.15 p.m., "Mrs. Gandhi came to Rashtrapati Bhavan along with Manmohan Singh" and showed Kalam the letters of support from various parties.
Kalam says Rashtrapati Bhavan was ready for the swearing-in.
"Thereupon, I said that was welcome. The Rashtrapati Bhavan was ready for the swearing in...That is when she told me that she would like to nominate Manmohan Singh as the prime Minister," Kalam says.
During his tenure, he says, he had to take many tough decisions. "I had applied my mind totally in an unbiased manner after eliciting opinions from legal and constitutional experts. The primary aim of all the decisions was to protect and nurture the sanctity of our constitution".
The two other tough decisions he had to take had to do with the dissolution of the Bihar assembly in 2005 and the returning of the Office of Profit Bill in mid-2006.
The book, a sequel to "Wings of Fire, is a window to Kalam's years as president in which he analyses his tenure, the decisions taken and his service to a changing India.