Kalam endorsed nuclear deal: Manmohan Singh

New Delhi : A.P.J. Abdul Kalam backed the nuclear deal India inked with the United States in 2005 and it is a “total canard” that the then president (Kalam) was reluctant to appoint Sonia Gandhi as the prime minister, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.

“This is a canard being spread (about Kalam’s reluctance); there is no truth in that,” said Manmohan Singh in his first interview since demitting office to Karan Thapar on India Today TV.

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“Kalam never questioned who will spearhead…that was a privilege given under the constitution to the party. Anything that is said on that area would not be true,” the former prime minister said.

Manmohan Singh confirmed that Abdul Kalam gave him great support during the run-up to the Indo-US nuclear deal of 2005 and said he spoke to Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh to persuade them to support the deal rather than vote against it.

The former prime minister said he suggested to Mulayam Singh to go meet Kalam who, Manmohan Singh added, “totally endorsed” the nuclear deal.

About his relations with Kalam, who passed away on Monday, Manmohan Singh said: “I served him as the prime minister for more than three years; he was the one who administered oath of secrecy to me. My relationship with him was that of great friendship; he recognised the problems I had in managing a difficult coalition government.”

“I took caution of keeping the president fully in the picture (on the nuclear deal),” the former prime minister said, adding he briefed Kalam on all developments with regard to the deal.

“I was very happy when he endorsed what we were doing,” he said.

“When I faced a vote of confidence, he was not the president but he still played an important role…” the senior Congress leader said.

He said the situation was difficult and he discussed it with Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh.

“I was discussing these matters with Amar Singh ji, and Mulayam Singh ji…with great difficulty we managed to persuade them to relook at their stand. It occurred to me that Mulayam Singh had great regard for Kalam…”

Singh said he then urged the SP leaders to meet Kalam.

“They went to see Abdul Kalam…he told them this deal is in national interest…and we won the vote of confidence.”

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, elected in 2004, faced its first confidence vote in the Lok Sabha on July 22, 2008, after the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front withdrew support over the Indo-US nuclear deal.

In the 543-member Lok Sabha, the UPA needed 272 votes for the government to enjoy a simple majority.

The UPA won the confidence vote with 275 votes to the opposition’s 256, with 10 members abstaining. The SP, with its 37 members, voted for the government, playing an important role in making the government get through the vote of confidence.