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Monday, April 20, 1998

"There's nothing wrong...Rao & I had an emotional attachment"

VIJAYAWADA, April 19: P V Narasimha Rao's novel The Insider has a woman character named Aruna who has a sustained romantic relationship with the hero, Anand. There has been speculation that Aruna, in the novel, is based on Lakshmikanthamma, a three-term Congress MP from Andhra Pradesh.

Lakshmikanthamma was one of the few Congress leaders who opposed the Emergency and was expelled from the party. She has now given up active politics and lives with her daughter in Vijayawada. In an interview to SUBBU

of the Tamilan Express, a sister publication of The Indian Express, Lakshmikanthamma admits that she and Rao had an ``emotional attachment'' but says it was ``unnecessary'' for Rao to write ``these (personal) things.'' Morarji Desai was a person of integrity, she says, but he created an ``unnecessary controversy'' over urine therapy. ``He need not have spoken such things in public. Even Narasimha Rao's book is of the same category.''


What do you feel about NarasimhaRao's book?

He himself has said that these characters are not real. That means he has synthesised many characters and put them as one, from many sources, real and imaginary.

Almost all politicians in his book are portrayed as plotting and scheming. As a person who has spent years in politics, do you agree with this view?

I haven't read the book. I cannot comment on it. This book is based on individuals. He was a student under the Nizam's regime. In those feudal days, singing Vande Mataram was a crime. As a militant, Narasimha Rao was trying to procure arms for the underground movement. That was the situation. He has given his impressions on the political situation, may be it's based on his experience.

There's a particular character in his book named Aruna. There is a continuous interaction between Anand and Aruna in the story. It's believed that this character is based on you.

Vengal Rao has also written a book and he has mentioned me there. How does Narasimha Rao describe Aruna,is it good or bad? (She chuckles) Aruna also must be a synthesis. It was bold on his part to write these things. But why did he write about his personal life? Not all would accept that they have a personal life. In general, people do have emotional attachments, but everybody is not going to confess to the world. A politician may have political, intellectual, emotional relationships. But who would write all that?

Would you mind talking about your relationship with Narasimha Rao?

There is nothing wrong in that. We had an emotional attachment. I had an appreciation for the intelligence of the person -- to what extent I can't say. Whether it's an animal, human or a divine relationship, I cannot explain. But in our society, there's a disrespect for women. Particularly, if she is a politician.

See what Somnath Chatterjee said about the meeting between Jayalalitha and Jaswant Singh? Is it right for a Communist to talk in that language? I found it shocking. I believed that they (the Communists) were theemancipators of the woman. But now all -isms have become hoax.

When Narasimha Rao was the chief minister of Andhra, I forced him to give the women's quota and got the maximum number of seats. Though I'm a woman, I work as a political personality. If some people want to say bad things, I shouldn't care.

Anand, hero of the novel The Insider contests the election and loses. In the next election, Aruna campaigns for him in his constituency. In a way, Anand's victory in that election is attributed to Aruna. Was there such a sequence of events in Narasimha Rao's life?

In the 1952 election, Narasimha Rao lost in the Karimnagar East Constituency. In 1957, he won.

I won with a margin of 108 votes in the same election.

The story says Aruna won by a margin of a few hundred votes.

(Laughs) He has mixed up fact with fiction. Whatever it is, I think it is unnecessary to write these things. The readers will benefit from knowing only the political happenings.

Did you campaign forhim in his constituency?

No, I did not know him then. We knew each other only when we became MLAs. I had sought his help for the work in the Assembly. He has even called me a Guru once.

He gave me a translation of his, from Marathi to Telugu, and he has written in it: `A flower offered to the Guru'. I still have that book with me.

I fought for two months to make him Chief Minister. There are many things like that.

Did you ever think that he would become the Prime Minister?

When Jawaharlal Nehru passed away, Narasimha Rao was given the ashes to be immersed in the Godavari river.

He then gave his name as a member of the Nehru family in the sankalpa. Such was his love for Nehru.

I even tried to tell Indira Gandhi about this matter. But Narasimha Rao stopped me.

Actually, I wanted his genius to be used for the nation's benefit. He had such intellectual capacity. He was pure, mild and not corrupt.

He had the grasp of any subject -- national or international. What is wrong in admiringsuch a person? There may be many admirers.

When he became the Prime Minister, things changed. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I consider myself as a political personality. My interest is only political. If somebody wants to drag me to Bollywood as a duet-singing character, what I can do about it?

(She asks whether he has included romance in the novel; I reply in the affirmative)

In the version that came out three years ago, the heroine was named as Sumitra. Now it is changed to Aruna. Moraji Desai was a person of integrity. He was also courageous.

But he created an unnecessary controversy about urine therapy.

He need not have spoken such things in public. Even Narasimha Rao's book `'The Insider'' comes under the same category.

What good is the reader going to derive from it?

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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