After Sharma refused to take the post citing his age and health, P.V. Narasimha Rao was chosen to take up the mantle."
New Delhi, July 30 - Congress president Sonia Gandhi did not become prime minister in May 2004 because her son Rahul Gandhi did not want her to take up the responsibility as he was afraid that she would be killed like his father Rajiv Gandhi, former minister Natwar Singh has claimed.
His assertion appears in contrast to Sonia Gandhi citing her inner voice as the reason for declining the post.
In an interview on Headlines Today news channel over his forthcoming book One Life is not enough: An autobiography, Natwar Singh, who was external affairs in UPA-I, said that Manmohan Singh and journalist Suman Dubey were present when Priyanka Gandhi revealed that her brother did not want their mother to be the prime minister.
Natwar Singh said Rahul Gandhi feared that she would be killed like his father (Rajiv Gandhi) and grandmother (Indira Gandhi). Both served as prime ministers and were assassinated.
Asked if Rahul Gandhi had set a 24 hour deadline for her mother, Natwar Singh said: He was very adamant.
Rahul Gandhi was not in the room. Priyanka conveyed this, he added.
In her address to Congress Parliamentary Party in May 2004 after the party's win in the general elections, Sonia Gandhi had said that post of prime minister was not her aim and her inner voice tells her that she must humbly decline this post.
Natwar Singh, who spent long years in Congress before quitting it following differences, said that Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka called on him at his house in May to suggest that the story about Rahul Gandhi's insistence on her not becoming prime minister should be kept out of the book.
Natwar Singh said that at this meeting, Sonia Gandhi embraced him, apologised on listening to travails he had gone through and and noted that he was her closest friend to whom she had confided things she has never told either of her children.
Natwar Singh also said in the interview that former president Shankar Dayal Sharma was the first choice of Sonia Gandhi to become prime minister when the Congress came to power in 1991.
After Sharma refused to take the post citing his age and health, P.V. Narasimha Rao was chosen to take up the mantle.
The book is due for release Friday.