This picture of a Prime Minister losing "all vestiges of control over his own government" emerges from a just-published book by a former close aide of his, Sanjaya Baru, who provides an insight into the "cautious equation" between the PM and Congress President and Singh's "often troubled" relations with his Ministers. (Agencies)
Baru, a senior editor and PM's Media Adviser between 2004 and 2008, quotes Singh as having told him that there cannot be two centres of power.
"That creates confusion. I have to accept that the party president is the centre of power. The government is answerable to the party," the PM told him, according to the 301-page book "The Accidental Prime Minister--The Making and Unmaking Of Manmohan Singh" published by Penguin.
Baru writes that after he had led the Congress party to electoral victory in 2009 Singh had made "the cardinal mistake of imagining the victory was his". He may have convinced himself that his performance and destiny had again made him the PM, and not Sonia.
"Bit by bit, in the space of a few weeks he was defanged. He thought he could induct the Ministers he wanted into his team. Sonia nipped that hope in the bud by offering the finance portfolio to Pranab (Mukherjee), without even consulting him," Baru writes.
Singh had been toying with the idea of appointing his principal economic adviser C Rangarajan, "the comrade with whom he had battled the balance of payments crisis of 1991-92", as Finance Minister, according to the book.
The PM had tried to put his foot down on the induction of A Raja of DMK well before the 2G scam became public knowledge, "but after asserting himself for a full twenty-four hours, caved in to pressure from both his own party and the DMK", says Baru.
Baru says that besides resisting the induction of Raja, the PM had also opposed the inclusion of T R Baalu in the Cabinet, "for their unsavoury reputations". He succeeded in the case of Baalu but had to yield ground on Raja.
According to him, Sonia's "renunciation" of power was more a political tactic than higher calling or to an "inner voice" as she put it in June, 2004 after she chose not to take up the post of Prime Minister despite leading the Congress to electoral success.
"But, while power was delegated, authority was not," he writes, citing the instance of her unsuccessful effort to appoint a retired Tamilian official as Principal Secretary to the PM and to place her trusted aide Pulok Chatterjee in the PMO. The retired official had worked with Rajiv Gandhi but had declined Sonia's invitation.
Such appointments were aimed at ensuring a degree of control over the government in addition to the Congress president having a decisive say in the allocation of portfolios.
Baru cites the creation of the National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by her, in 2004 as the first sign that Sonia's renunciation of power was a political tactic. It had created a parallel policy structure. Singh had realised that he had no option but to live with it although it seemed that "he was not too comfortable" with it.
No one in Singh's council of ministers seemed to feel that he owed his position, rank or portfolio to him. The final word always was that of leaders of the parties constituting the UPA, says the book.
This picture of a Prime Minister losing "all vestiges of control over his own government" emerges from a just-published book by a former close aide of his, Sanjaya Baru, who provides an insight into the "cautious equation" between the PM and Congress President and Singh's "often troubled" relations with his Ministers.