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This article was first published 10 years ago

'PM became an object of ridicule; files went to Sonia'

Last updated on: April 12, 2014 17:00 IST

Sanjaya Baru, in the eye of a storm after his latest book The Accidental Prime Minister made startling claims about the top echelons of the Congress, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has defended himself saying his book was not a criticism of the leaders, but had a balanced viewpoint.

"The media has picked up only specific portions from the book. The book is very balanced. It has some criticism as well as some appreciation," Baru said.

Baru, in an interview to CNN-IBN while explaining details and excerpts from his book, also claimed that Sonia Gandhi was the super prime minister during UPA 2 regime and Manmohan Singh had been reduced to being an object of ridicule.

"It is no secret that Sonia Gandhi was the super Prime Minister. The files went to her. My book is because of what was happening to Dr Singh in the last two years, the way he became an object of ridicule. I want to tell the people the facts," Baru said.


On timing of the book

“Timing was decided by the publisher, the book has been ready for some time now. And the fact is that as I said in the book & certainly I would like a lot of this discussion to be based on the book because the book is actually very supportive of the contribution of Dr Manmohan Singh.”

“I think the media has picked up only some of the criticisms, then there is criticism, I have said in my book that there is lot of facts about what the PM which are positive but there is also criticism and that is why I call it an honest book. I think the lot of reaction in the media is because media tends to say you know when dog bites a man or man bits a dog, you are always focussing on man biting the dog.”



'I am not sure if Modi actually read the book'

Modi is quoting your book, you may disagree with the media, but the BJP is using your book as Bible and saying that all the charges we had levelled against Manmohan Singh, which has been rejected by the Congress, is today being confirmed by the man who spent five years with the PM, Now how do you respond to that? Won’t you say that motive will be attributed to you?

No. there is no motive but all I am saying is my facts are balanced and I think that media tends to focus on the negatives, but if you read the whole book, I am not sure if Modi actually read the book… he would not be very happy with a lot of what I have said because I have actually said that in UPA I the PM provided leadership for the economies revival, PM provided leadership for India’s revival globally, the relationship with United States, the nuclear deal, the relationship with Pakistan, the dialogue with Musharraf, the economic initiatives taken.

The popular view today is that the 10 years of UPA were a complete waste of time. And I am saying no sorry that was not the case in UPA 1, it was not the waste of time... because of very significant achievements of this PM but it is true that in UPA2 things went wrong and that is not a secret and that is not the news.

On statement by the PMO yesterday that it was unethical…

I don’t want to comment on that. I have said my only reaction being I am amused I don’t think that’s a well thought out response but what can I do. That has been their response.

But in 2006 you have been quoted by the India Today magazine, where you described Dr Manmohan Singh who was your  mentor, and you say that I am here in this position because of my  personal loyalty and admiration for Dr Singh. Now when you come up with this book, but in election  time when we are in the mid of heated election, obviously the  portion of your book will be lifted, you may call it balanced/unbalanced, but the BJP will use this book as a bible. Don’t you think you have given them a tool, you embarrassed the Prime Minister?

So I am saying please read the book….and I had anticipated this, I have actually argued in the introduction; read the book then you will understand what I am trying to say… for every criticism for those who want to criticise the prime minister will pick from the book, there are double the number of supportive statements that can be picked out to defend the PM. Those who wish to defend the PM can use the book to defend him unfortunately that has not happened.


'Congress did not give PM credit'

Is it not that this book has been written with the certain objective on your mind where you either willing to give tool to the opposition or you are trying to create an exit route to the PM?

Not at all. I think the book is extremely balanced account of what happened; I will defend this position to death, that took a lot of care in ensuring that the book lists out all of the positive achievements of the PM and which people who wish to defend him should actually be using to defend him rather than merely focusing on the negative.

On PM’s position being different in UPA I and UPA II as mentioned in the book

In UPA I, he was the accidental PM... He did not contest the election in 2004 to become the prime minister. Sonia decided that he would be the PM and the whole sequence of events that led him to becoming the PM is discussed in the book.

In 2009 the Congress went to the people of India with a manifesto with Dr Manmohan Singh in the front cover and said we have given you 5 years of UPA I give us another 5 and the people of India not only gave the UPA another 5 but they gave 60 more members to Parliament. So the victory of 2009 was Manmohan Singh’s victory.

And that is where the difference came up between him and Sonia. I believe that the Congress party -- and I have said this in the book -- did not give him the credit.

On Sonia Gandhi being the super PM, according to the book…

I don’t think it's a secret. For me, as a journalist, I would say what's the big deal? We all knew this.


'Dr Singh wasn't treated with deference that a PM deserves'

Was the PM's authority being curtailed and superseded by Sonia?

Of course... often yes, but that's known. I have said that often on many issues... I can't quantify it but certainly important issues... he was consulted, there was a core group, which met every Friday that was involved in a lot of important decisions... All of this is reported news; I am not saying it for the first time.

On taking five years to come out with this book...

The reason I have written this book was my agony looking at the way in which in the last two years Dr Manmohan Singh was made an object of ridicule.

I said two years back to the media that in politics it’s alright to be either loved or hated... that's quite normal in politics all over the world. 

But the tragedy for Dr Singh was he began to be ridiculed.

So I have written this book to tell a new generation that has come to vote for the first time this year and have no clue of Dr Singh of UPA I that here is a man who did all this and it is only now that you become an object of ridicule.

On Dr Manmohan Singh being treated like a family retainer by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi

Retainer is a strong word. I will not like to use that, but certainly I don’t think he was treated with deference that a Prime Minister deserves.


'Rahul's behaviour was impetuous'

On Rahul Gandhi's equation with the PM

My book argues that in 2004 Sonia did not have much of a choice... I wrote a column in May 1999 in Times of India and the headline given by them was the ‘Perils of Sonia as PM’. In 2004, she had no option as he (Dr Manmohan Singh) had the support of the allies -- DMK, NCP and even the communists.

In 2009, certainly as I have said in the book, he was the man who was entitled to be the PM. Rahul publicly was differential. Politically to actually have gone public to demand from the PM that you scrap an ordinance that the cabinet has taken... that is not on. The entire behaviour was impetuous.

On that appointment of Pranab Mukherjee as finance minister in 2009 without the knowledge of Dr Singh

That been recorded. Some Bengali journalists have already written the story of how Sonia called him (Pranab Mukherjee) after the results came in and asked him ‘what portfolio do you want.’ Pranab said ‘I want finance’ and Sonia said you can take it.

But I don’t know this for a fact since I was not present when Sonia spoke to him, but I have seen it in the media and have spoken to some journalists who confirm this for me.

On the book not being only a tool of the political debate

The Congress is sensible. Those who want to defend the PM sensibly they will use the book to defend him, but those who want to criticise the PM they can use it to criticise him. That is why I said it is a balanced book.