New Delhi: Former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao had kept ‘secret files’ on over a dozen ‘troublesome’ politicians, an ex-PMO official has revealed in a soon-to-be-released biography of H.D. Deve Gowda.
Deve Gowda succeeded Rao in 1996, after the 13-day government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Rao passed on those files to Gowda who entrusted them with his close aide and joint secretary in the then PMO, S.S. Meenakshisundaram. These files were ‘kept’ in the PMO during the tenures of two of Gowda’s successors – I.K. Gujral and Vajpayee. It’s not known whether they remain with the PMO or were disposed of after Vajpayee left office.
“The files were like an atom bomb. Rao gave me more than a dozen files on very important people who were inside and outside his Cabinet. If I remember correctly, there were files on Mulayam Singh Yadav, J. Jayalalitha, S. Bangarappa, Sharad Pawar and others,” Meenakshisundaram told Sugata Srinivasaraju in an interview for the biography titled Furrows in a Field. It has been published by Penguin Random House India and is likely to be released later this month.
“Rao kept some secret files on political personalities who could create trouble…files that could be used in case they misbehaved or double-crossed,” Meenakshisundaram was quoted as saying in the book.
‘The files were like an atom bomb’
Pawar was the defence minister in the Narasimha Rao government for about 20 months before the then Prime Minister persuaded him to shift out of Delhi to Mumbai as Maharashtra chief minister in March 1993. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav was the defence minister in Gowda government. Bangarappa who became Karnataka chief minister with then Congress president Rajiv Gandhi’s blessings in 1990 was in office till November 1992 (during the early part of Rao’s tenure as the PM). Jayalalithaa was the Tamil Nadu chief minister when Rao was the PM.
Meenakshisundaram says that one day Rao told Gowda that “since he wasn’t returning as PM”, the latter should take those secret files from him.
“Rao asked Gowda to nominate an officer he trusted to hand over those files. Gowda sent me to Rao and also told me that I need not show him the files but would only like to be briefed on its contents. The files were like an atom bomb,” says Meenakshisundaram.
The then PMO officer adds that those files were with him as long as he was in the PMO. “I handed them over to Ashok Saikia (a joint secretary in Vajpayee’s PMO) when Vajpayee took over….Whatever I was to Gowda, he was to Vajpayee.” In-between, when Gujral had become the Prime Minister, Meenakshisundaram told him about the files. “He (Gujral) had asked me to continue holding them as he did not have anybody he could trust. When Vajpayee came, I told Brajesh Mishra about the files. He asked me to keep them, too.”
Meenakshisundaram told the author that when his term at the PMO was coming to an end, “I said I would like to hand them over. That’s when Ashok came into the picture. Whether Ashok gave them to someone else after Vajpayee stepped down, I have no knowledge.”
What happened to those files after Dr Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister in 2004 remains a matter of speculation. Ashok Saikia passed away in 2007.
Nripendra Misra, who became principal secretary to PM Narendra Modi in 2014, told ThePrint: “I never heard of any such files nor did anyone talk about them.”
ThePrint couldn’t contact Sharad Pawar but one of his family members emphatically denied any knowledge of the existence of those secret PMO files.