New Delhi, Apr 12 IBNS | 6 months ago

Rejecting former advisor to the Prime Minister, Sanjaya Baru's claims, Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Saturday said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh never seeks Congress president Sonia Gandhi's permission for carrying out his administrative responsibilities.


"In my 10-year tenure, I have neither seen the PM ask 10 Janpath (official residence of Sonia Gandhi) for permission on administrative decisions, nor have I been directed by the PM to ask 10 Janpath," said Chidambaram.

"Sonia Gandhi and the Congress take only political decisions," he said.

Baru has said Sonia Gandhi acted as a super-Prime Minister and wanted Manmohan Singh under her control.

"It is no secret that Sonia Gandhi was super-Prime Minister. The PM's authority was curtailed and superseded by Sonia Gandhi. Since 2009 Sonia Gandhi wanted Dr Singh to be under her control," Baru told CNN-IBN.

Pertinently, Baru is under political fire for his book 'The Accidental Prime Minister', where he wrote that Singh was "defanged" by the Congress in his second term with Sonia, deciding over key appointments to the Cabinet and to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

In an interview to CNN-IBN, Baru said: "In UPA I Dr Singh was the accidental PM; in 2009 Cong went to people on his name, got more seats but didn't give him credit. Problem started in 2009 when Dr Singh thought victory was due to him; Congress did not."

Baru said he wrote the book because of agony at how Singh was made an object of ridicule in the last two years.

"Leaders are loved or hated; tragic that Dr Singh is ridiculed; I wanted to address the new generation about this. In last few years Dr Singh has been made fun of in unprecedented way; I wanted to correct some notions for young people," he said.

"Everything mentioned in my book are recorded facts, some quite well known. Manmohan Singh was not treated with the deference that the Prime Minister deserves," he said.

"My book argues that in 2004 Sonia Gandhi did not have too much of a choice in who should be Prime Minister. In 2004 Singh wasn't produced out of a hat, he was supported by UPA allies too," added Baru.

Asked about the timing of the book launch that coincided with the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, Baru said: "The timing of the book was decided by the publisher; it had been ready for some time. I might have political leanings, all of us do, but no political ambitions."

Brushing off reports that the book is only about Manmohan bashing, "Media has picked up some of the criticism of Dr Singh only; but the book is honest and balanced. That the PM was defanged is not news; the book actually reveals this was not always the case 60% of the time."

"My facts are balanced; UPA I performed creditably, things went horribly wrong in UPA II; book reflects this. For every criticism of PM in the book, there are double the number of arguments in support of Dr Singh," said Baru.

Reacting to the PMO slamming Baru over the book, he said: "I am amused by the PMO's response to the book. Let there be an open debate on the subject; my aim was not propaganda for or against the PM."

The PMO on Saturday hit back at Baru, for saying Singh surrendered to the pressure from Sonia and UPA allies.

"Baru has taken advantage of his former position. He has fabricated a lot of issues in his book. In a press meeting last October, the PM himself had warned that Baru should not be believed," Communications Adviser to the PMO, Pankaj Pachauri, was quoted as saying in media.

In his book 'The Accidental Prime Minister', Baru also wrote that Singh seemed to "surrender" to her and to the allies.

"Bit by bit, in the space of a few weeks he was defanged. He thought he could induct the ministers he wanted into his team. Sonia nipped that hope in the bud by offering the finance portfolio to Pranab (Mukherjee), without even consulting him," Baru has written in the book.

Baru has also quoted the PM in page number 301 of the book, published by Penguin, as telling him: "That creates confusion. I have to accept that the party president is the centre of power. The government is answerable to the party."

In 2004, Sanjaya Baru left a career as chief editor of the Financial Express to join Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as his media adviser in United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

(Posted on 12-04-2014)

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