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Ashwatthama was killed…when the name of the Prime Minister was decided by the trick of Mahabharata theinsiderinsight


This is a very popular incident from Mahabharata. Guru Dronacharya was made the commander of the Kaurava army after lying on the death bed of Bhishma Pitamah, riddled with Arjun's arrows. The bravery of Guru Drona created panic among the Pandavas. To stop his victorious chariot, Shri Krishna, with his wisdom, conveyed the news to Guru Drona that Ashwatthama had been killed. It was actually a hoax, the Ashwatthama who was killed was an elephant. But this deception was created in such a way that Guru Drona thought that his son Ashwatthama had been killed in the war. Dronacharya gave up his weapons, after which he was killed.

This thousands-year-old story has been told because on the same lines, a big bet was played in 1989, the person who was planned to become the Prime Minister by laying out the chessboard, turned the whole game upside down by playing the opposite bet.

The matter is of 1989 elections. Under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi, Congress could not repeat the success it had achieved in the 1984 elections. Congress, embroiled in the Bofors scam, emerged as the largest party but was far away from majority. Rajiv Gandhi had decided that he would not stake claim to form the government and would sit in the opposition. Janata Dal led by VP Singh capitalized this opportunity very well. But the problem was that two centers of power had formed in the Janata Dal. On one side was VP Singh and on the other side was Chandrashekhar. Chandrashekhar did not want his junior (VP Singh) to become the Prime Minister at any cost. This was the reason why he voted for the post of Prime Minister. But he soon understood that he did not have enough support to become Prime Minister. In such a situation, he made a big bet on Devi Lal.

(Chandrashekhar and Devi Lal/ Photo credit: India Today)

There was no doubt that the majority of Janata Dal MPs were on the side of VP Singh, who had made the irregularities in the Bofors deal a major election issue. Janata Dal's victory in the Lok Sabha elections was, in a way, a personal victory for VP Singh. But the contest between VP Singh and Devi Lal for the post of Prime Minister was going to be very interesting.

Senior journalist Kuldeep Nayyar, while mentioning this incident in his book 'Ek Zindagi Kafi Nahin', says, 'I knew Devi Lal very well. I met him on the morning of the match. He had no illusions about himself. He himself had said that VP Singh would prove to be a better Prime Minister, but his problem was that he had already given word to Chandrashekhar that he would definitely enter this contest.

(Photo credit: India Today)

Nayyar says, 'I knew that Chandrashekhar had started the campaign to stop VP Singh. Devi Lal himself was completely ready to accept him as Prime Minister. Chandrashekhar was the kind of leader who, if he could not get his point across, would either break the party or leave it. Devilal had called Chandrashekhar to Orissa Bhavan. They also took me with them. Biju Patnaik was already present there on Chandrashekhar's request. It was quite clear that if VP Singh was not accepted as the Prime Minister, the party would break. Chandrashekhar said that he had asked Madhu Dandavate to propose the name of Devi Lal, which he would approve. Seeing Chandrashekhar's harsh attitude, I requested Devi Lal that he should accept Chandrashekhar's formula. Devilal did the same.

While mentioning this incident in the book, Nayyar says that Devi Lal and I were going to Parliament House by car. I explained my formula to Devi Lal and said that after his name was proposed and approved, he should stand up and withdraw his name himself. And VP Singh's name should be proposed. Devilal looked at me with surprise and then smiled and agreed.

(VP Singh, Devi Lal and Chandrashekhar / Photo credit: India Today)

And Ashwatthama was killed…

In the book, Kuldeep Nayyar writes about this entire incident, 'The party MPs had gathered in the Parliament House for the election of the leader. Devilal was hesitant in deceiving Chandrashekhar. To boost his courage, I narrated him an incident from Mahabharata. Yudhishthira agreed to say that Ashwatthama, which was the name of an elephant, was killed in the war. There was a warrior of the same name in the Kaurava army, who freed the Pandavas. Yudhishthir had not lied but the Pandavas used his statement to create panic among the Kauravas and break their morale. I told Devi Lal that after the proposal and approval of his name, his promise given to Chandrashekhar would be fulfilled, even if after a minute he proposed someone else's name. Devilal understood what I said. Apart from me and Devi Lal, only Punjab Kesari editor Ashwini Kumar was aware of this 'secret formula'.

(VP Singh and Rajiv Gandhi/ Photo credit: India Today)

On the other hand, Madhu Dandavate proposed Devi Lal's name in the Parliament and Chandrashekhar approved it as per the plan. Devi Lal stood up from his seat, continuing his conversation with me. He surprised everyone by withdrawing his name and proposing the name of VP Singh. Everything happened so fast and so suddenly that no one stood up from the seat to approve the name of VP Singh. After some confusion, when the members understood the whole thing, Ajit Singh got up and approved the name of VP Singh. In this way VP Singh was unanimously elected leader of the parliamentary party.

Another interesting thing that happened during this time was that Devi Lal announced that he wanted to remain uncle all his life. Later VP Singh honored his greatness by making him Deputy Prime Minister.

When the name of the wrong Prime Minister was announced

During this entire incident, another interesting incident happened, which has been mentioned by senior journalist Neerja Chaudhary in her book How Prime Ministers Decide. She writes that on December 1, the meeting started at 4 pm in the Central Hall of the Parliament House. Senior leader Madhu Dandavate was sitting on the stage. He was appointed Returning Officer, whose responsibility was to conduct fair elections. VP Singh, Chandrashekhar and Devi Lal were sitting next to him. Dandavate had called this meeting to elect the leader of the parliamentary party. As soon as this meeting started. VP Singh got up from his seat and said that I propose Devi Lal's name as the leader of the parliamentary party. As soon as he said this, Chandrashekhar sitting next to him smiled at his victory. But there was silence in the entire auditorium. Dandavate declared Devi Lal the leader of the parliamentary party. As soon as the name was announced, the UNI reporter immediately called the office and informed that Devi Lal would be the new Prime Minister of the country.

But meanwhile the events changed rapidly. Devi Lal got up from his seat and said that this entire election has been fought against corruption, which has been led by VP Singh. Devi Lal said that in Haryana where people call me uncle. I want to stay there as an uncle. Having said this, Devi Lal surprised everyone by announcing the name of VP Singh as the leader of the parliamentary party.

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