“The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and
Unmaking of Manmohan Singh” by Sanjaya Baru, published in 2014, is an
account of former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s two terms in
office. Sanjaya Baru was appointed as ‘Media Adviser’ to Dr. Manmohan Singh during his first term in UPA – 1 from
2004 to 2009. He has mainly touched upon this time period in his book. This
book is in the form of a political memoir. The book’s
narrative follows a chronological format, painting a picture of Dr. Singh’s
terms in UPA 1 and UPA 2.
In the introduction to his book, Baru proclaims that none of
his predecessors at the Prime Minister’s office ever wrote a full book on his
experiences during his tenure. Editors as famous as B G Verghese, Kuldip Nayar,
H K Dua and Prem Shankar Jha chose not to do so. And neither did bureaucrats
like G Parthasarathi, Ram Mohan Rao and PVR. K. Prasad. Some columns or
articles were written by some of the aforementioned, but not a comprehensive
Baru himself had no plans of ever penning his experiences in
the PMO, but was persuaded by Chiki Sarkar and Kamini Mahadevan of Penguin
Books, especially when the descent of Dr. Manmohan Singh in the people’s eyes
into an object of ridicule during his second term as Prime Minister saddened
him greatly. He felt that a leader should either be loved or hated, not
ridiculed and mocked.
Sanjaya Baru’s account starts from when he became the Media
Adviser to the then – Prime Minister in 2004, and gives insider information on
the landmark events, political workings, bureaucracy and achievements in the
PMO with the prime focus on Dr. Manmohan Singh. The author valiantly tries to
portray Dr Manmohan Singh in a positive light, belying the actual events taking
place and the subsequent media portrayal of these.
The book portrays
the rise and fall of Dr. Manmohan Singh from a reluctant economist – turned –
prime minister to a puppet-like character dancing to the tunes of the then – UPA
chief Sonia Gandhi. Along with insights into
the internal politics in the cabinet, the functioning of bureaucrats, prime
achievements of the UPA 1 government, it also shows us the work methods of
Media Advisers and the so-called Spin
oblique references to people and situations, there is enough material for the
reader to judge the then Prime Minister’s efficiency and integrity.
At the time of its release, in 2014, “The
Accidental Prime Minister” was closely scrutinized by the then
– media primarily because it revealed many fascinating things about the power
equation / struggle between Sonia Gandhi and Dr. Manmohan Singh. Keen interest
in this book also arose since it was released during the time of elections. While
the ruling Congress Party scrambled to deny the veracity of the book’s contents,
the Opposition indulged in gleeful government – bashing. Dr. Manmohan Singh’s
daughter Upinder Singh herself denounced
the book, calling it “nothing but
a stab in the back… a huge betrayal of trust”.
I started reading with some preconceived notions
in my head about the non – performing image of Dr.
Manmohan Singh as a man who
rightly deserved the ridicule he aroused in the general population’s minds. I
was particularly curious at the reactions of his family.