Friday, July 18, 2014


    THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER : THE MAKING AND UNMAKING OF MANMOHAN SINGH : SANJAYA BARU : PENGUIN BOOKS : PAGES 320 : PRICE RS 599/- : Contrary to the belief that the book is ‘a work of fiction’ and a ‘stab in the back’ as Congress spokesmen and some others claim, actually the book is kind to Manmohan Singh and a bit flattering too. The book is essentially a tell-all memoir and about how the author ran the PM’s media affairs and his view of men in the PMO and also of some of the PM’s colleagues. Sanjay Baru who was media advisor to the PM from May 2004 to August 2008 claims that he has given a true account of the goings on in the country’s CEO’s office. Sanjay Baru traces Manmohan Singh’s first four dream years in UPA1. His reputation was squeaky clean then nationally and internationally. He enjoyed an excellent rapport with some of the world’s great leaders who considered him to be a practical and effective economist and a true statesman. His zenith was the government’s victory over the nuclear deal for which he put his reputation at stake. In the second term, however, unfortunately, a few things went horribly wrong. Firstly, Manmohan Singh thought he was the architect of the UPA victory in the elections which his colleagues never liked and that he could do no wrong. Secondly, the Maran affair, 2G scam and the coal scam which came one after another during the UPA2 regime, dealt a debilitating blow to Manmohan Singh and his reputation. He was seen clearly as a person who did not have his own mind. He was seen as a PM who sought instructions from the Congress Party President and bent backwards to execute them. According to the author, Sonia Gandhi appointed Manmohan Singh under compulsion after her bitter experience with Narasimna Rao. That led to a dual power structure resulting in lack of clarity and confusion. Manmohan Singh continued to support his cabinet colleagues who were involved in the humongous scams till he was compelled by the Opposition party to sack them or force them to resign. In the process, he brought the party to the brink of disaster. During this period, the country remained practically leaderless and directionless. The author projects him as a good man, but one who succumbed to pressures even from ministers and MPs in policy matters. He bowed down to coalition chieftains and compromised on governance. Unable to counter vested interests within his government and party, he often remained a mute spectator resulting in a state of policy paralysis. Though the book is about Manmohan Singh, the author also covers other personalities like Natwar Singh, M K Narayanan, A K Antony, Pranab Mukherjee and a few bureaucrats. Here was an opportunity for readers to understand the contemporary political history of India from an insider. Was he truly a puppet or his own man? What was the reason for Manmohan Singh to be so subservient? Sanjay Baru definitely could have thrown more light on this subject. Sanjay Baru has been criticized for several reasons. That he tried to give an impression that he was a very important person and privy to confidential information as a) an adviser to the PM helping him to decide on important filling-up of senior bureaucratic positions which were lying vacant and b) on the affairs of the State. Also, the timing of the release of his book on the eve of the General Elections came in for a lot of flak. There could be some merit in that criticism but then few authors could have resisted the temptation when they think that they have a best-seller on hand and which could generate record sales.

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