FORMER PRESIDENT Giani Zail Singh remarked that despite pressure from Congressmen and the Opposition, he did not dismiss erstwhile Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. “I had no intension of dismissing him,” he said.
In an exclusive interview to The Pioneer, the Giani remarked: “there were a lot of corruption charges against Rajiv Gandhi. I could have dismissed him on those grounds alone,” he revealed. “Also, there was no concrete proof of the corruption.”
However, Rajiv Gandhi then had a majority in Parliament. Wouldn’t have been patently illegal for him to dismiss Rajiv Gandhi? “Have you read the Constitution? The president is within his rights to dismiss the Prime Minister in order to preserve and project the Constitution,” counter-argued Zail Singh.
The occupant of 4, Circular road in South Delhi is ailing but his mind remains as sharp as ever. Not leaving anything to chance, Giani Zail Singh has entrusted sensitive chapters of his autobiography to his close friend living in South India. “I have given instructions that they should be published after my death.”
Was he afraid of reprisals? After all, even mild criticism of Rajiv Gandhi by Mr. R Venkataraman in his autobiography had created a rumpus within the Congress party. Did he anticipate trouble? Dismissing the very thought, Zail Singh laughed with contempt: “What can anyone do to me? What can the Government do? At the most, they will cut my petrol allowance! Anyway, I am still revising my autobiography. Let me see, I have kept my mind open. I may include even those chapters which I have given for safe-keeping to my friend”.
As of now, Giani Zail Singh is sure that his autobiography would contain even minute details, albeit important ones, of his tenure as President. Taking an indirect dig at Mr. Venkataraman’s autobiography, Zail Singh said: “Unlike some other biographies, my autobiography will not contain details about my meeting different heads of State for ten minutes or so.”
“What is new about a President meeting his counterparts elsewhere on a routine basis? That’s his job! My autobiography would contain important details which could be used as a reference book by the people of this country.”
However, for now, Giani Zail Singh is averse to talking about his forth-coming work.
While refusing to go into details about the revelations made by Mr. Venkataraman in my presidential Years, Giani Zail Singh chose to remain mum on the identity of the senior Congressman who played an active role in a bid to topple Rajiv Gandhi’s Government.
“Look, some of those who were supposedly involved (in the scheme) are still my friends. Yes, they are also a part of the present government. And why shouldn’t they be?”
Explaining how the media and a section of Congressmen had unnecessarily maligned him, Giani said his book would put the record straight.
Pointing to the plaster peeling off the walls of his house, he said in an injured tone that he had the opportunity to make “crores” when he was the President but chose not to.
“Yes, it’s true that I was offered crores of rupees. But I have not made a single paisa dishonestly. Even the house I live in belongs to the Government. I do not have any property in the country. Whatever property I have in Punjab came to me in inheritance.”
If he did not intend to dismiss Rajiv Gandhi, why did he entertain those involved in the scheme to topple the Rajiv Gandhi Government? Wasn’t he angling for a second term?
In an astounding revelation, Mr. Zail Singh said with a straight face that he was “never interested in a second term as the President”!
“See, if I was really interested in a second term, I would have said yes to everything that Rajiv Gandhi and his Government wanted. However, take the Postal Bill. It was because of my objections that the Bill was finally dropped,” he said.
Did he regret the fact that Rajiv Gandhi did not give him the second term?
“See, I was very sure that he would not give me a second term. Whether you would believe it or not, ten months before my first term was to end, I had discussed my retirement plans with him,” explained Giani Zail Singh.
By Ketan Tanna