Sonia Gandhi dictated and the PM submitted
Regardless of the scorn that the Prime Minister's Office may heap on Mr Sanjaya Baru for his revelations in his recently released book, The Accidental Prime Minister, the undeniable fact is that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had completely subordinated himself to Congress president Sonia Gandhi during his second term, from 2009 on. It is amusing that the PMO should consider the contents, which only reiterate the widespread belief of Mr Singh having wielded power without authority, as “fiction” and “coloured view”. PMO officials have taken pains to remind the media that the Prime Minister had himself once remarked that the Press need not take seriously everything that Mr Baru said. The issue here is not whether Mr Baru had begun to speak out of turn, or that he had lost the Prime Minister's confidence and thus his job as the media adviser to Mr Singh in 2009. The issue is also not whether Mr Baru's revelations have been driven by the raw deal he had received or his lack of rapport with the Congress's leadership whom he has accused of systematically undermining the authority of the Prime Minister. The focus is, and should be, on how Mr Singh was bulldozed time and again by his Cabinet colleagues who owed allegiance to the Nehru-Gandhi leadership, as well as by Ms Sonia Gandhi and her coterie, including that of the National Advisory Council which she leads. If this bares as false the Congress's claim that Ms Gandhi has never interfered in the functioning of the Government, it also presents Mr Singh in poor light. After all, he allowed himself to be run over and his authority to be usurped. This meekness may be attributed to the Prime Minister's personal demeanour or his realisation that he had no electoral stature to challenge Ms Gandhi’s diktats. Whatever, it reflects poorly on a Prime Minister if his senior staff vets files on important national issues with an extra-Government authority (Ms Gandhi) before presenting them to him with suitable instructions. Such supine conduct is not what the people of the country expect of their Prime Minister.
The book also exposes the charade that the Prime Minister has shared a trouble-free relationship with Ms Gandhi. That may have been true to an extent during the first term of the UPA, but certainly not in Mr Singh's second innings, where he was forced to follow Ms Gandhi's directives also in the matter of selecting his Cabinet colleagues. Even towards the last leg of the first term, there were issues. Mr Singh is quoted in the book as being extremely upset that the Congress was not standing behind him on the civil nuclear deal with the US, and for Ms Gandhi having let him down. It is only when he threatened to quit that the party, facing an election, fell in line. But after that, as Mr Baru observes, Mr Singh ceased to be the Prime Minister that he should have been.