Over the years, I have seen many battles of succession at the Centre. The Jawaharlal Nehru scion has had the maximum number of prime ministerships. Nehru to Sonia Gandhi has projected their children. Lal Bahadur Shastri never groomed any of his sons. Neither did V P Singh nor Narasimha Rao. Atal Behari Vajpayee was a bachelor. Even short-term Prime Ministers Deve Gowda, Inder Kumar Gujaral and Chander Shekhar possessed no dynastic ambition. Apparently, the criterion for succession in the Nehru dynasty is that the nominee should be a direct descendant. No child of Nehru's two sisters, Vijay Lakshmi Pandit and Krishna Hathee Singh, was considered because the relationship had to be direct. Nayantara Shegal, daughter of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, told me once that even their dog was welcome to the house when Mamu (Nehru) was living, but after Mrs Indira Gandhi came to power, "we were treated like a dog and kept out." The only explanation I ever got was from B K Nehru, a distinguished civil servant who was twice governor. He was not even apologetic when he said that "We Nehru's provide the country with a symbol of unity and that symbol is the Nehru dynasty." I do not know how far this is true because it sounds like a dictator's claim that he is indispensable. Nehru groomed his daughter Indira Gandhi. First, he made her the Congress president and then the chairperson of the Citizens' Council which was given the responsibility of mobilising public support during the war between India and China in 1962. Home Minister Shastri was a member of that Council. He could see what Nehru was trying to do but felt helpless. At one time he felt so exasperated for being 'ignored' that he wanted to quit as minister without portfolio, the post to which he was inducted into the Cabinet. He was one of the ministers who resigned under the Kamraj Plan. Whenever Shastri talked about quitting, I would tell him (I was his press officer) that he was an automatic choice after Panditji. His reply was: Panditji ke dil mein to unki saputri hai (Panditjit has only his daughter in mind). Nehru died suddenly after a short illness. He had no time to nominate Indira Gandhi. Then there were so many stalwarts in the Congress he could not ignore. Shastri died early. Kamraj, Congress president at that time, had no option except to make Indira Gandhi the prime minister. He did not like both Morarji Desai and Gulzari Lal Nanda, the party's two worthy contenders. For Mrs Indira Gandhi it was easy. She had defeated the Old Guard while splitting the Congress in 1969. She combined the post of prime minister with that of the Congress president. There was no opposition when she appointed Rajiv Gandhi, her eldest son, straightaway as the Congress general secretary. He was a pilot with Indian Airlines. President Zail Singh appointed him the prime minister when Mrs Gandhi was assassinated, without waiting for the Congress Parliamentary Party to elect him. I do not fault Sonia Gandhi for projecting her son, Rahul Gandhi. The Congress has been reduced to a rubber stamp. None has the courage to stand up to her. I cannot visualise a situation where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would act despite Sonia Gandhi's opposition. Rajiv Gandhi's early assassination ruled out Rahul Gandhi at that time because he was too young. If Sonia wanted to have the prime ministership she could have had it. But she was lost in grief and kept herself aloof. She was ultimately persuaded to lead the Congress to keep the party united. Priyanka, her daughter, was projected by some Congress leaders and she did become popular because people saw in her another Indira Gandhi. But like Indians, the Italians prefer son to daughter to be a successor. Priyanka was deliberately kept out of public gaze. Arjun Singh was the first to suggest the name of Rahul Gandhi as the next prime minister. Arjun Singh is also the person who had proposed the name of Sonia Gandhi after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. But she herself said 'no'. Once Pranab Mukherjee mentioned Rahul as the next prime minister, the Congress leaders were vying with one another to ride into the Rahul Gandhi bandwagon. Their predicament is that Sonia Gandhi has said that the party will fight the next elections under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. If the party returns to power, there is every possibility that Manmohan Singh will retire in a year or so, handing over the reins to Rahul Gandhi who may be a minister in Manmohan Singh's next government. It appears that coming events cast their shadows before. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband accompanied Rahul to Amethi to spend two days with him. It was indiscreet on the part of the snooty British, to say the least. The writer is a former member of the Indian Parliament and senior journalist E-mail: knayar@nation.com.pk