Recently released book, ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’, by Sanjaya Baru, Manmohan Singh’s media advisor in UPA-1 has become a bestseller in no time. It talks about the reign of the Congress party and the existence of two power centres in the government. Politicians of all parties were abuzz with their ‘expert’ opinions. The Congress denying any culpability while the BJP maintained that it was an open secret. However, upon analysis one realizes that the book is neutral as far as political parties are concerned and merely talks about the difficulties faced by the PM and his role, or the lack thereof, in the government.
Singh has himself acknowledged that power in the party was dual in nature and was exercised by none other than Sonia Gandhi. This was quite evident in the fact that Singh was not allowed to select his own Cabinet and nor could he completely exercise his freedom while dealing with a tough coalition comprising the Left. My personal opinion is that the book does more benefit to Singh than harm his reputation while talking about his failures due to him being ‘selected’ and not elected (Singh was the first PM from the Rajya Sabha). Baru talks about how senior party leaders owed their portfolios to Sonia and Singh was merely a titular head. Decisions were taken by the NAC or the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia. We also read how major populist measures thought out by Singh were attributed to Rahul Gandhi in order to enhance his reputation as a comprehensive leader. The book goes on to describe Baru’s tenure with Singh and one can get a glimpse into the working of the PMO.
Baru describes in detail, the Indo-US Nuclear deal, which was perhaps the only significant achievement of Singh. His dealings with Bush and the Left (which was strongly objecting the deal) are quite remarkable. He managed to influence not only his own party but also the Samajwadi supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav into supporting his government. His commitment to this deal was evident in the fact that he tabled his resignation to Sonia Gandhi as she shied away from supporting this resolution. This is when we realize that he wasn’t entirely spineless.
At the end of the day, one can conclude that maybe Singh valued the chair more than his self-respect. He was constantly humiliated by the party top-brass while he wasn’t given his due credit for the re-election of his government. Under such circumstances, any self-respecting person would have hanged up their boots or handed in their papers. His impeccable reputation preceded him to the office however, the fact that he turned a blind eye to his corrupt colleagues cost him dearly. He himself was indecisive and when he tried to control the party with a firm hand, was side-lined and shunned. Baru always said that Singh’s mistake was not seeking election through the Lok Sabha so as to become the legitimate head of state in the eyes of the populace and his party as well. The expansion of MGNREGA, which was principally his idea, was credited by the party to Rahul. Manmohan Singh believes that he will be treated kindly a few years down the line but, questions must be asked as to why did he never resign from the post which did his reputation more harm than good.