Well, I too read it. Yes, I read perhaps one of the most debated books of 2014. I read the book that triggered a storm and captured the attention of most Indians in 2014. Yes, I finished reading “The Accidental Prime Minister”. Before I proceed with my review, let me come clean with my personal opinion on Dr. Manmohan Singh.
I was one of those who was very happy when Shri Manmohan Singh ji was named as the Prime Minister of India by the Congress party. In the 90’s when I was in my teens and all, I used to see people have grudges against Congress but not against Manmohan. They used to criticize congress but had respect for Manmohan as it was he who opened up new avenues of growth. Coming from a middle class family we all loved the way the opening up of economy created jobs and opportunities for growth for all of us. Hence, naturally, when he was named the prime minister we all thought it was a great move by congress and we are going to have a great economist script India’s growth story going forward. In 2004-2005 there was a mail that was circulated with Manmohan’s credentials (CV) and we used to take pride that the PM of India had the most impressive CV in the world.
However, today I am hell bent on seeing his govt out. It’s not just me , there are thousands of people like me who once had a great expectations from the man and today they are hell-bent on seeing his govt out. Tragic isn’t it ? What caused this transformation across millions of Indian middle class men and women? Sanjaya Baru’s book “The Accidental Prime Minister” gives us the answers.
Imagine you give a person a certain task, when you expect him/her to deliver results, you also try to give him the best possible environment so that he/she can produce the outstanding results you want him/her to produce. At the least you extend basic courtesies by respecting his domain and not pushing your foot in every aspect of that work. In case you want to be there everywhere then why delegate in the first place? Sounds common-sense doesn’t it ? But then as many people in the country believe today , the biggies of the Congress party swayed away from it .
Unfortunately, it seems that the congress party did not extend the basic courtesies to our Prime Minister, forget choosing his ministers Dr.Singh at times could not even choose his advisors!!! Isn’t that appalling? When I read this in the book I was indeed shocked to the core. How did they expect him to deliver results when they constrained him in every way possible?
Coming back to the book, contrary to the public opinion, I feel that this book actually praises Dr.Singh for the man he was. For about 80% of the narrative you will see that the author actually showers admiration on Dr. Singh and his policies. Though an underlying current keeps telling us that he was constrained, your respect for Dr.Singh will keep growing as you read the book. Only in the last 10% or so we hear criticism on the PM saab for not standing up to the bosses in his party. In a way this book boosts Shri Manmohan Singh’s image. I think this is the thing that prompted people like Ashok Khemka to say this.
However Sanjaya Baru also clearly points out that the PM should have acted with courage and would have taken the party bosses head on. Had our Prime Minister done that, the country would have been a completely different place to live in. Unfortunately that did not happen and people like me who were die-hard fans of Manmohan Singhji at one point of time are today wondering as to why he did not resign quite some time ago. While reading Sanjaya Baru’s narrative it becomes obvious by the time you reach the fag end.
Some of the very positive aspects of the book are (i) it tries to tell us how a PMO functions (at a very high level though) (ii) it gives us a good picture of hoe important institutions interact and how they help the nation. (iii) it speaks about the importance of having competent officers and their necessity in PMO, the author does a good job whiled speaking about Brajesh Mishra ,Mani Dixit , Narayanan etc . (iv) It ‘s brings out the vision of Dr.Manmohan Singh for India. We also get to know about various initiatives of the Vajapayeeji and how Manmohan’s Sarkar also continued them.
The only complaint I have is that while the author definitely claims that Manmohan yielded space, he does speak about various games the other party would have played. Saying Manmohan is constrained is one thing, bringing out the truth on how it was done from the other side would have helped the readers a lot. I only wished that Baru garu would dedicate more space to the wily games played by the Congies and the troubles they created to Manmohan and India. That would have actually helped the readers understand what India lost in the last 5-10 years.
One more thing the book doesn’t actually say why Manmohan actually did not resign when resigning was the Hobson’s choice for him . That some how makes me think in the line of his critics, there are many people who say that he is an overrated economist and underrated politician. Is it the politician Manmohan who is not giving up the position or is all this wishful thinking of people ? It would have been great had Sanjaya Baru thrown some light on this . Personally I feel Manmohan ji should have stepped down long back when he was denied even the basic right of choosing his own cabinet and his advisors. He lost a lot of respect just by hanging on there.
All in all a fantastic book, a must read for every Indian. You would understand the need of a strong PM when you read this book. You would understand what Manmohan Singh ji had to endure in 10 years of premiership.
These two sentences from Sanjaya Baru tell it all.
Some of the PM’s advisers, like Rangarajan, worried that this period of rising income growth was not being used to improve government finances on a more sustainable basis and feared the consequences of such ‘fiscal irresponsibility’, but in UPA-1 there were few takers for such caution
For someone whose favourite aphorism was ‘money does not grow on trees’, Dr Singh presided over a government that had begun to spend money as if it was growing on trees.
That’s unfortunately the tale of the man who enjoys the most powerful office of India.