‘Sonia weakened PM’
Sanjaya Baru: ‘Sonia Weakened PM’, Congress President Sonia Gandhi slowly chipped away at the authority of the Prime Minister\'s Office, created a parallel power structure and left a weakened Prime Minister
- Former media adviser to PM calls her extra-constitutional authority
- Congress left red-faced, BJP seizes opportunity to hit out at its rival
New Delhi: In a book that has sent ripples across the political establishment for its timing, Sanjaya Baru, media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his first term, has said that Congress President Sonia Gandhi slowly chipped away at the authority of the Prime Minister's Office, created a parallel power structure and left a weakened Prime Minister who "allowed himself to become an object of such ridicule in his second term in office."
In a book that hit the stands on Friday, Baru, who now works with a think-tank, said so weak was Manmohan Singh that he also failed to defend his (Baru's) promised reappointment after the 2009 election victory as the Secretary in the PMO and tamely surrendered to the party's veto. "To tell the truth, I was dismayed by the PM's display of spinelessness," Baru said of his former boss. Giving several instances of Singh capitulating to the extra-constitutional authority of Sonia Gandhi and refusing to assert himself, Baru stated: "Initially, I saw his subservience as an aspect of his shy and self-effacing personality, but over time I felt, like many, that this might be his strategy for political survival... Whatever the motive, his image took a fatal blow," Baru said in the book ‘The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh.’
"So I, like millions of his middle-class supporters, feel tragically cheated that he has allowed himself to become an object of such ridicule in his second term in office, in the process devaluing the office of the prime minister," Baru said in the book. The BJP promptly reacted with a I-told-you-so, with party leader M. Venkaiah Naidu saying that "I have been saying from day one, PM presides, Madam decides." The Congress, battling countrywide negative perceptions about the government and widely expected to do badly in these polls, was left red-faced.
Baru, during whose tenure in the first term of Manmohan Singh (2004-2009) enjoyed a positive media, was always uncomfortable with the Congress establishment who made no secret of the fact that they wanted him replaced in Manmohan Singh's second term. ‘PM had threatened to quit on nuclear deal’
At the peak of the political crisis over the Indo-US nuclear deal in the summer of 2008, Manmohan Singh had threatened to quit if the UPA coalition was to buckle under Left pressure and had told Congress President Sonia Gandhi to look for his replacement. The 'goings on' behind the curtain between Singh and Gandhi have been captured in graphic detail by Sanjaya Baru in his book. Baru, a veteran journalist, resigned his job with Singh in 2008 during the days of crisis over the Indo-US nuclear deal.
Singh had spoken to Gandhi on the evening of June 17 on the issue. Next morning, she and senior minister Pranab Mukherjee had come calling at the PM's residence. The PM had cancelled all his appointments for the day and this had generated media speculation about his resignation. Baru called PM regarding this speculation and was advised by him to say nothing to the media. "I knew the deed had been done."
He was later summoned by the PM who had told him that he had spoken to Gandhi the previous day and informed her that his position had become untenable. He also explained what had led to his offer to resign. Baru says he had learnt Sonia had asked Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, to convince the PM not to resign.
Subsequently, the government was allowed to proceed with the deal and go to the international nuclear watchdog IAEA for securing nuclear waiver and the PM stayed on to win a parliamentary vote of confidence after the Left had withdrawn support.