Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Accidental Prime Minister by Sanjay Baru

Image result for the accidental prime ministerIn 2004, when Dr. Manmohan Singh ascended to become Prime Minister of India, the most powerful position in South East Asia it was not only a surprise for his supporters and detractors but a pleasant surprise for the man himself.  ManMohan Singh edged out men like Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh and other sly and seasoned politicians to rule India for the next decade. The author, Sanjay Baru, was then Media adviser to the PM. He served the Prime Minister in UPA 1 and thus claims to have a close working relationship with Manmohan and had intricate details about the workings and Politics of UPA.

ManMohan Singh is a world renowned erudite, whose work in economics is unparalleled. He along with PV Narasimha Rao were the architect of the modern Indian economy and responsible for opening up India to the free market. Manmohan Singh's legacy was already sealed but he got the opportunity to lead India in 2004, when Sonia Gandhi, an Italian waitress who married into the most powerful family in India, and become the leader of Congress Party by virtue of her marriage to the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family decided to rule India through a proxy.

Sanjay Baru presents a great picture of Manmohan Singh, a docile, introvert person who is very prudent, meticulous and apolitical. The author presents himself as a media wizard, a savvy straight talker and Manmohan's go to man. Sanjay shows great respect and admiration for Manmohan and he makes Manmohan Singh look very good in the book. The book also talks about the numerous challenges that Manmohan had to face in his regime from capricious allies to unfaithful party men and then there was the bane of the Congress party - rampant corruption. On top of this Manmohan also had to deal with the super PM and his boss Sonia Gandhi.

This book helps corroborate opposition charges that Manmohan singh was only a proxy and the real power lay with the Nehru Gandhi family bahu. Like all monarchies, the emperor/empress have absolute control, power and unwavering fidelity, similarly the monarchists(Congress party workers and leaders) also did not accept manmohan as the leader but saw him only as a conduit for Sonia Gandhi. This is where the problem lied for the UPA regime and Manmohan. The Prime Minister was seen only as a puppet. Sanjay Baru claims that this was not always the case and the perception was not always the reality, in his opinion Sonia and Rahul had great admiration for Manmohan and he was a close famliy friend and confidant of the Gandhi's.

Manmohan Singh did take a few decisions which showed that he was his own man, like the nuclear deal, dealing with the Southern allies and his diplomatic efforts with the Pakistan and his outreach to the Chinese. Manmohan Singh, a brilliant economist unfortunately took terrible and populist economic decisions when he was PM, it is not clear whether he did this under duress or he took these measures to ensure a second term in office.

He did beat all expectations and bettered Congress' tally when he got re-elected. UPA 2 was but an abject failure. Sanjay Baru parted ways with the PM and coincidentally the worst time for PM started, his regime was hit by multi million dollar scandals one after the other. Coal scam, CWG scam, 2g scam, Adarsh scam etc. Manmohan was reeling under the shameful acts that his colleagues in the cabinet were committing, poor guy was not able to take action because these scamsters were powerful people and had backing of either allies or own party.

Sanjay Baru's book is an enjoyable read, it is well crafted and comes across as a mixture of political gossip and fact. The book tries its best to potray Manmohan as a honest, hard working but ultimately a failure of a politician. Some people even say that the book had tacit approval of Manmohan even if he says otherwise in public. The books details the 10 year regime of the UPA, and does it exceedingly well. Very entertaining, nice and light read. Recommended!

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