Kalam Declined Cabinet Berth: Pillai

Published: 18th August 2015 03:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th August 2015 03:55 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: Former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam declined a cabinet berth in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998. Also, the Brahmakumaris spiritual guru predicted that Kalam would become President. These little-known details about the life of the late President were revealed on Monday by noted scientist Sivathanu Pillai, who was Kalam’s close associate for close to 45 years.

Speaking at an event organised in the Russian Centre of Science and Culture to pay tribute to the ‘People’s President’, Pillai, also known as father of BrahMos cruise missile, revealed that the Pokhran nuclear test was initially planned in 1995 as the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao wanted it conducted prior to elections. But it proved difficult because of the new economic policy that was introduced in 1991 and also US satellites picked up India’s preparations, Pillai added.

Sivathanu.jpgHowever, Rao wanted India to test the nuclear weapon and impressed upon Prime Minister-elect Atal Bihari Vajpayee to go ahead. Vajpayee assured Rao that he would conduct the test but could not do it as he lost the confidence vote by one vote in the next 13 days. While subsequent Prime Ministers IK Gujral and HD Deve Gowda were not keen about the nuclear tests, it was Vajpayee who initiated the process again in 1988.

After assuming office, Vajpayee summoned Kalam for a breakfast meeting and offered him a cabinet post. Kalam, who was the scientific advisor then, discussed it with his friends, including Pillai. “We urged him to decline the offer. During the meeting, Kalam told Vajpayee: Do you want the nuclear test or want to give me a cabinet berth?,” Pillai recalled the episode. Vajpayee was for the nuclear test and that is how Pokharan happened. “The test was camouflaged, as a result satellites could not detect it and this caused Americans to sack the CIA director,” Pillai added.

Further, Pillai recalled the visit of Kalam to the abode of Brahmakumaris in Mount Abu. “It is believed that the soul of Baba transcends on one of the sisters who makes prophecies. During the interaction, Kalam was told he would become a great man and asked what he wished for. Typical of him, Kalam said he wanted the nation to be rid of illiteracy and poverty. It was in February that he went to Mount Abu and in March, became the President. We were surprised with the turn of events,” said Pillai.

In his tribute, Ramkumar Ganesan, the eldest son of Sivaji Ganesan, said the legendary actor was inspired by Kalam’s Wings of Fire. “I mailed my father’s biography to Kalam and he replied saying he liked a particular chapter in it,” Ramkumar said. K Veeramani, chancellor of Periyar Maniammai University, M Natarajan, editor of Puthiya Paarvai, Sergey L Kotov and others also spoke on the occasion.


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