For UPA, the release of two explosive books by two former key officials in UPA and both blatantly pointing towards the weak standing of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his inability to take critical decisions could not have come at a worse time.
Sanjay Baru's book, The Accidental Prime Minister-The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh vindicates what has been generally felt for long about the existence of dual positions of power and decision making in the corridors of UPA Government.
As an Advisor to the PM and Prime Minister's Office, Sanjay Baru had access to stuff which would invariably be the most confidential and he for obvious reasons had been witness to things that the outer world had suspected about until now.
The Shocking Disclosures
Sanjay Baru made disclosures about the real existence of dual positions of power in the UPA Government and that the clout of the Prime Minister or his hold on things was extremely limited. The telltale saga that Sanjay Baru narrates gives a clear depiction of how a lightweight and a nondescript bureaucrat namely Pulok Chatterjee was inducted into the Prime Minister's Office ‘at the behest of Sonia Gandhi' for briefing Sonia Gandhi and for taking instructions on every critical file to be cleared by the Prime Minister.
Isn't it a real time breach of protocol? Why should the PMO have to take instructions from a Party President on which file and with what corrections the nation's Prime Minister should pass/
The book further states how the likes of MK Narayanan was inducted as the National Security Advisor which to the author seemed was like the ‘ third leg of PMO leadership as a concession to Sonia'.
It will be difficult for Congress to counter the fresh onslaught at this hour
There is also a shocking revelation in the book which states that the PM delegated the role of taking security and intelligence briefs from the heads of IB and RAW to MK Narayanan. If the Prime Minister of a nation stops taking interest in national security issues then one can surely raise questions as to whether he was ever the right man to lead the nation.
The author uses an interesting phrase to describe the manner in which Manmohan Singh conducted himself. He defined Singh as someone who had , 'Active morality for himself, but passive morality for others', an explanation of the way he remained a mute spectator to the plethora of scams that plagued the UPA regime.
This was partly because of his extremely limited political clout given the political appointee that he himself was, and partly perhaps in nature he remained inclined to disciplining himself alone. This perhaps is okay for an individual but not at all for the head of a state.
Even some basic and minimal leadership skills are needed to be displayed for running any small office or an establishment such as a bank branch or a school. One feels appalled to read and gauge the kind of a reclusive and taciturn individual who was running the affairs of the state. Either he was completely helpless or completely clueless or not interested at all in managing the state well. The Prime Minister, it seemed, was there in that position for the heck of it.
The author made further revelations about how the credit for most of PM's work would invariably go to Gandhi Family and how many of his cabinet colleagues would not brief the Prime Minister and would instead brief Sonia Gandhi. Further, the book made daring allegations about how Manmohan Singh's cabinet colleagues used to leak out information.
The Other Nemesis
If this one book was not enough of a damage to an already beleaguered Congress, another book by ex-Coal Secretary PC Parakh namely Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and other Truths makes things more worse for the UPA to defend. Parakh almost reiterates what Sanjay Baru has stated in his book in terms of how easily the Prime Minister's decisions were overruled by others.
The ex-coal Secretary contends that his insistence of having an open competitive bidding approach for the allocation of coal blocks was cancelled in spite of the green nod from the Prime Minister. The first-come-first-serve basis of allocation of coal, as per the CAG made India lose Rs 1,86,000 crore in terms of revenue.
PC Parakh made direct accusations about the fact that even though Manmohan Singh headed the government, he did not have any authority or control over his own Cabinet Ministers. He also stated that honest officers were being prevented from functioning properly in the government.
The impact- Disastrous for Congress
The release of these two explosive books by two former close officials have not only vindicated what has been guessed by the nation about how the Prime Minister had little or no control over his own government, but has also essentially revealed that the extent of rot and external control of the government has much more than what has been guessed so far.
The problem for Congress is that the vindication of the Remote Control theory also makes sure that Sonia Gandhi can now be equally held responsible for the dysfunctional governance of UPA over the last 10 years. Everything that Sanjay Baru's book mentions can be inferred to draw that conclusion since decision making was hardly in the hand of the Prime Minister and every minister was more eager to please the party president and brief her on everything.
Manmohan Singh's lack of conviction and utter disinclination to take control of policy and governance issues was perhaps because he knew that his own existence in the PM office was an incidental one or rather an accidental one.
As mentioned by Sanjay Baru in his book, Manmohan Singh presumed that the onus was perhaps on the Congress Party to make sure that corrective measures are taken against unruly and corrupt ministers. Manmohan Singh's own inclination in making things corrected was rather too nonexistent. The same perhaps goes for his real time disinterest on security issues as well.
With elections in full swing and with latest Narendra Modi led NDA's aggressive campaigning giving sleepless nights to Congress, the new set of ammunition that these books have given to the opposition and to BJP in particular, would be difficult for Congress to counter. And even though the Congress Party has come up with the usual rebuttal about the books, it would be difficult for Congress to convince the populace at large.
Even if these books were not released, the basic context and the content of the books and what they essentially narrated in terms of a weak Prime Minister not in control of the situation and that his cabinet colleagues working more to please the party president and listening more to her than the PM, was never in doubt.
The net result of a helpless PM and a free for all government that India had to deal with over the last 10 years, has been sheer stagnation of economy, weakening of its global standing and external security as well as increasing level of internal insecurity. All thanks to an accidental Prime Minister perhaps, who incidentally should not have been in that position in the first place.