It may be hard to believe but P V Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister had once telephoned Madhavrao Scindia to assure him that he regarded him as his successor.
The incident happened when Scinida was out of Rao's cabinet in 1994 after he had resigned as Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister, owning moral responsibility for a plane mishap.
This has been revealed by noted journalists Vir Sanghvi and Namita Bhandare in their new book A Life: Madhavrao Scindia, which was released by Congress President Sonia Gandhi early this week.
Privately, however, Rao used to tell people that the maharaja of the erstwhile Gwalior state was in "too much of a hurry to become prime minister", the authors say.
"Rao called Scindia one day out of the blue to assure him that he regarded him as his successor. He was getting on, he said he certainly had no interest in a second term. After Rao, the field was open for such leaders as Scindia," the book says.
The same Rao had made the "mistake" of including Scindia in the hawala chargesheet. The first mistake was the inclusion of L K Advani in the chargesheet and the second was including Scindia, the authors say.
This was a "rude surprise" for Scindia, the authors said, adding that Rao had told him "The case against you is built on foundations of sand, Madhavraoji."
At another point before Scindia was named in the chargesheet, Rao threw his arms up in a gesture of helplessness when Scindia went to see him. "What was he to do?
It was all in the hands of CBI which was entirely independent. Vijaya Ramarao (the then CBI Director) is adamant about
chargesheeting you.....you know he doesn't listen to me."
The book, which traces the life history of one of India's most powerful politicians, also suggests that Rao saw Scindia as a potential threat to his future political career from the time he became Prime Minister in 1991.
The authors write that an acquaintance of Scindia had asked him "Why doesn't Narasimha Rao like you?". "Scindia was surprised. He said that Rao had always been perfectly pleasant to him. No, said the acquaintance who had just been to see Rao and had discussed various members of the Cabinet with him.
"When Madhavrao's name came up, Rao stiffened visibly. 'He is in too much of a hurry to become Prime Minister,' he had said curtly," it says. Later, as the years went on Scindia came to realise that the acquaintance had been right, the book says.
It adds that the cases against Advani and Scindia robbed Rao's "hawala stratagem" of much of its impact.