The accidental Prime Minister by Sajaya Baru | 5 Points BOOK REVIEW
When the book “The accidental Prime Minister” by Sanjaya Baru released in 2014, I had no interest in reading it. The primary reason for the reluctance was the combination of — the title of the book, the subject of the book and a certain job role the author had taken in the past.
To the uninitiated, Sanjaya Baru was the media adviser to the former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh from 2004-2008. Baru’s book is a recollection of his tenure as the former Prime Minister’s media adviser; and hence the book title, The Accidental Prime Minister.
But in the past five years, I found the excerpts from the book widely being quoted by politicians, bloggers, politically inclined Indians (we) on Facebook, WhatsApp and where not. In recent months, even a Bollywood movie has been announced bearing the same title. Before that a family friend also called the book interesting, although he had not recommended it.
After reading the book now, I find that some of these so called references from the book scattered all across our drawing room debates and online are indeed correct. But most of the references to the book and the author in context with the book are plain lies (in Hindi “Safed jhooth”).
So before putting my succinct opinion about the book,
Lets have a look at what Sanjaya Baru, the author, has indeed recollected in the book “The Accidental Prime Minister”; and what is wrongly attributed:
Gandhi family didn’t want former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar to be cremated in Delhi : Yes
The author has written about such an incident in the book. The reason he believes is that the Gandhi family didn’t want him to be cremated there for political reasons.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was cut short and humiliated by Sonia Gandhi : No
In fact he has stated the existence of an entirely different dynamics between the Gandhi family and Dr. Manmohan Singh. In his tenure as the Prime Minister’s media adviser, he has no recollection of any incident where Sonia Gandhi interfered in the major policy making. Although on many occasions, she pressed the PM to focus on some policies for broader people welfare(which many use to call populist).
Are Programmes such as MNREGA (Guaranteed employment), Food security etc. brainchild of Rahul Gandhi: No
It cannot be said that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was against these policies. He in fact, as the book tells, was still a socialist at heart. Hence when the need for such programmes was brought to his attention he whole-heartedly supported and pushed for them. But since these policies required broader support of the allies, hence when such programmes started gaining broader support within the party and allies, the credit obviously went to the ones who were publicly seen as politicians.
Did Sonia Gandhi humiliate Dr. Manmohan Singh in public: No
The author believes to the contrary. According to him, the Gandhi family had great respect and reverence for Dr. Manmohan Singh both as a PM and as a family friend. They were seen keen on getting his advice even on family matters. The way, ordinary people, seek advice of wise elderly people in their families.
Did Sonia Gandhi give Dr. Manmohan Singh an impression that his Prime Ministerial tenure is bestowed on him by her : No
Here again the author holds a view which is opposite to what many among us think is true. According to the author, it was Dr. Manmohan Singh who restricted himself to the Prime Minister’s role. He assumed that his role as a PM doesn’t include being a political PM. The former PM always defended his belief by saying that : “His actions will speak for themselves”. Those who want to prove the existence of two power centres during UPA regime often quote an incident from the book where the PM stood from his chair, the moment Sonia Gandhi embarked on the stage. The author says that since the former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh spent most of his work life outside India as an economist in World Bank, etc.he usually greeted women by standing up from his chair. It was not being subservient. His courtesy manners were somewhat western.
The book is filled with instances which make it an interesting read. The book is nothing like what many among us want or portray it to be.
Book review: The book is well-written, interesting and worth a read. It is one of those books which when read cover to cover, enrich the reader, in some way.
I didn’t like the book though, for one simple reason. When a person takes the role of a PM’s media adviser, he must not divulge any details of his stay there. Writing a book is something which can’t even be imagined. Even when the author has not divulged any sensitive policy and other details during his tenure as PM’s advisor, he still might have breached the trust of someone (the PM) who made himself personally accessible to him due to the nature of his job role as PM’s media adviser.
There is another flip side to a media adviser writing such a book. It makes the reader believe that the reason for the PM’s good work is the media adviser.
So when a media adviser to a PM chooses to write a book about his tenure as media adviser, his intentions don’t matter much. Sanjaya Baru must not have written such a book.
Although I didn’t like the book for the reason already mentioned, I do recommend it.