Stepping up attack on Sanjay Baru's book brought out in the midst of Lok Sabha elections, Congress on Tuesday dubbed it as "mother of all plants" and asserted that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi have the "best of relations".
In a lengthy statement, Congress dwelt at length over the book by the former media advisor of the prime minister, dubbing his account as "baseless and riddled with contradictions."
He had no privileged access or inside knowledge, the Congress statement said.
"The political relationship between the PM and the Congress president is an inspiring example of the great democratic tradition of selfless cooperation of political leaders in the best interests of our nation, established and fostered in the Congress party by Mahatma Gandhi," it said.
The party also questioned the timing of the release of Baru's book 'Accidental Prime Minister -- The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh' and former coal secretary P C Parakh's book 'Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and Other Truths'.
At the All India Congress Committee briefing, chairman of the media department, Ajay Maken termed as unfortunate the timing of the release of two books and alleged that the authors have played into the hands of the political opponents of the Congress by releasing the books in the midst of elections.
On Baru's book, Congress said, "Given the timing of its publication and its prominence in the media, his book must qualify as mother of all plants".
Dismissing allegations of differences between the prime minister and Gandhi, Maken said that both have the "best of relations and trust among each other".
In Lucknow, Congress general secretary and spokesman Shakeel Ahmad termed the release of books by Baru and Parakh as a "conspiracy" against Congress.
The Congress statement came close on the heels of BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi latching on to the book to mock at Singh and targeting Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, saying they wielded the real power instead of the PM.
"He was not at fault and was unnecessarily criticised. All the fault lies with the mother and son (Sonia and Rahul)," Modi said addressing a rally at Bhagalpur in Bihar.
On Parakh's book, Maken said timing of its release "perplexed all of us". He said Parakh is 68 years old and he came out with the book eight years after retirement when CBI had nabbed him in the coal scam.
"It is unfortunate. Timing is the big question. When it is in the midst of elections and when CBI is getting closer, it is providing political benefit to the opposition. It is unfortunate. Some forces are working against the Congress. People understand this," Maken said.
Giving point by point rebuttal to the central issue of Baru's book -- the relationship between the prime minister and the Congress President --, Congress said it is "just a compilation of well-known, and well-worn baseless and planted speculative gossip".
"It is hardly surprising that Baru's book lacks any hard facts, insights or analysis, or anything new. Baru had a limited role in the PMO. He was no political insider," Congress said.
The party accused Baru of lack of integrity and devaluing the Prime Minister's Office.
"Perhaps the best evidence of Baru's lack of integrity is his protestations on one hand of great loyalty and love for the prime minister and, on the other hand, his heaping insult and ridicule on a Prime Minister who is respected and honoured for his strength, competence, accomplishments and virtues not only all over India but globally," the statement said.
"Although this is a charge he makes against the Congress president, actually it is Baru who has now devalued the office of the prime minister and been grossly uncharitable and unfair to honourable people merely because he was passed over for a second term," it said.
Congress said Baru fails to explain how exactly he came to know of the "differences" between India's two top-most political figures that he so authoritatively chronicles if he had access neither to their one-on-one interactions nor to government files, and the said differences were not publicly aired.
Hailing the Prime Minister and the Congress president, the party said that the "selfless cooperation" between Singh and Gandhi should be a lesson to other political parties especially in the current circumstances.
"It is a tradition that all Congress workers and leaders always aspire to emulate," the party said.
On a question regarding claims made by Baru, Patel said that the duty of any media advisor was to establish better coordination between the PMO and media and not to keep an eye on the official files.
He said that if Baru has done so, he did wrong.
He said that as far as decisions of the government were concerned, the party has the right to give suggestions.
The spokesman said that it was due to Sonia Gandhi that the laws like RTI came into existence.
Image: Former media advisor to PMO Sanjay Baru (right) with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh onboard Air India One
Photograph: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/Rediff.com