Sanjaya Baru's new book The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh, confirms what we all had thought for long. Baru, former Media Advisor to the PM, has seen it all from close quarters in the PMO and tells us that dear doctor was indeed, a weak Prime Minister, who enjoyed the office but never had the power to command it.
The book talks of how Dr. Manmohan Singh was deliberately sidelined, ignored and even run over in important policy matters. All important files were approved by Sonia Gandhi before they were even shown to him. A parallel National Advisory Council, chaired by Sonia, was created to ride over the PMO's decisions. The PM, who has always been media-shy, refused to take credit for his achievements and preferred to let Sonia and Rahul enjoy the limelight for the things he had done. So instead of there having been a dual power centre with Singh, the PM and Sonia, the Congress chief, it was actually a single power centre being run from 10, Janpath instead of 7 RCR. The NAC and Sonia's choice of its members was justified as a recognition of the growing importance of the NGOs that claimed to represent the civil society in policy-making. However, in practice, it created a parallel policy structure that sought to project Sonia as the voice of the civil society and Dr Singh as the government representative. While Dr Singh realized that he had no option except to live with it, and never complained about it, he was not too comfortable with it.
Bit by bit, he was deprived of all his teeth. For instance, Sonia offered the finance portfolio to Pranab Mukherjee, without even consulting him while the PM had been thinking of appointing C. Rangarajan, ex-RBI Governor to the post. He had tried to oppose A. Raja's induction (though the 2G scam became public in 2010, he may have known of Raja's role), but afterwards, he caved in to the pressure.
Predictably, the PMO has issued a strong denial, calling the observations a work of fiction but Baru has stood by the contents of his book, which has created a political storm at a crucial time. For the BJP and other opposition parties, this is a god-send to attack the UPA government with.