‘Vajpayee wanted to induct Kalam as minister’



New Delhi: Former prime minister AB Vajpayee wanted to induct APJ Abdul Kalam as a minister in the NDA government in 1998, an offer Kalam declined, four years before he became the President in 2002.

The revelation was made by the former President in his recent book "Turning Points: A Journey Through Challenges".

He said his decision to decline the Cabinet position enabled him to contribute to two major programmes that gave "spectacular" results to the nation.

Kalam, who was then the DRDO chief, recalls that he got a phone call on the midnight of 15th March, 1998 from Vajpayee.

"He said that he was finalising the list of ministers and he wanted to induct me into his cabinet. I told him that I needed some time to think about it. He asked me to see him the next morning at 9 AM."

Kalam said that in the middle of that night he assembled his few friends and debated up to 3 AM whether he should join the Cabinet or not.

The general opinion was that since he was fully involved in two missions of national importance and these were in advanced stages and nearing good results, he should not leave them and enter the political system, he said in the book.

"The next morning, I went to 7 Safdarjung Road, where the PM was staying....I then told him, 'I and my team is busy with two important programmes. One is readying the Agni Missile system and another is bringing to a close the nuclear programme through a series of tests in partnership with the DAE (Department of Atomic Energy)'.

"I feel that by involving myself full time with these two programmes, I will be contributing more to the nation. Please permit to continue," Kalam said.

Vajapyee responded by saying he appreciates Kalam's feelings and told him to go ahead with his task.

"I appreciate your feelings. Go ahead, God bless you," Vajpayee responded, the book says.

Kalam recalls in the book that many things happened soon after. The Agni Missile system was readied for induction, five nuclear tests were conducted consecutively and India became a nuclear weapon state.

"My declining to accept the Cabinet position enabled me to contribute to two major national programmes that gave spectacular results to the nation," he said.

Kalam was then the chief of DRDO. He had taken over as the Secretary of DRDO and Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister in 1992 itself.

He also says that he was invited by the then Tamil Nadu Governor Chenna Reddy to become the Vice Chancellor of Madras University and had also requested the government to approve his appointment as the Vice Chancellor, which he intended to take up after attaining the age of 62.

Kalam recalls that the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao, who was also the Defence Minister, however, asked him to continue as scientific advisor as Kalam was engaged in a number of important programmes.

Kalam said he found Rao "very perceptive" on defence issues and that the former Prime Minister had a "long-term vision" of building robust systems for defence application.

Kalam later on joined as Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, a Cabinet rank. He served on the post from November, 1999 to November, 2001.

PTI