Thursday, 6 August 2020

Telling Tales: Much Less Than What Meets The Eye

Updated: May 10, 2014 11:54 am

Recently Two Books One By Former Osd, Media To Dr Manmohan Singh Sanjaya Baru And Other By Former Coal Secretary P C Parakh Have Hogged The Headlines In The Media For A Whole Week. Many People Rushed To Bookstores Or Checked-Out Online To Read The Latest Dirt Spilled By One Celebrity About Another. Most Of Them Were Disappointed. The Headlines And Title Would Make People Believe That The Books Were Tell-Alls About Skeletons In The Closet, Political Feuds, Secrecy And Disappointment. On Closer Scrutiny, Though, The Book Contains Only Minimal Passing Mention Of These Issues. What Was Revealed Was Known In The Public Domain For Years.

Both Sanjaya Baru’s Accidental Prime Minister – The Making And Unmaking Of Manmohan Singh And P C Parakh’s Crusader Or Conspirator? Coalgate And Other Truths Have Set A Cat Among The Pigeons. The Timing Of The Book Launch Has Been Widely Questioned And It Clearly Shows The Political Motives Are Behind The Release In The Midst Of A Bitterly Contested Election Campaign Between The Ruling Congress Party And The Principal Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. The Book Essentially Paints Congress President Sonia Gandhi As The Power Behind The Throne, Almost Directly Controlling The Prime Minister’s Office.

The Prime Minister’s Office Hit Out At Baru, His Former Media Advisor, Saying That The Book Which Contended That Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Was Undermined By Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi, Smacks Of “Fiction” And Is A “Coloured” View And Rubbished It As “Baseless And Mischievous”. The Book Was Good Fodder For The Opposition Parties. It Provided Ammunition To The Bjp, Which Lost Little Time In Making Political Capital Of The Situation. Senior Bjp Leaders, Including L K Advani And Arun Jaitley Attacked The Ruling Congress And Dr Singh Over The Book, Saying It Is A Confirmation Of What The World Already Knew-That He Is A “Weak” Pm And Sonia Gandhi Had The Last Word In Government Matters. The Party Raised The Issue In Public Rallies And Attacked Sonia Gandhi For Belittling The Constitutional Office Of The Prime Minister.

The Books Are Attempts To Misuse Privileged Positions And Access To High Office To Gain Credibility And To Apparently Exploit It For Commercial Gain. Baru Claims That His Book Is “Very Balanced” And Also Highlights The Achievements Of Upa And Blamed The Media For Only Focusing On The Criticism In It. Playing Down The Raging Controversy, He Said That There Is Really Nothing Substantial In The Book That People Were Already Not Aware Of And The Timing Has Nothing To Do With The Elections.

With The Dust Barely Settling Down On Baru’s Book, Former Coal Secretary P C Parakh Threw Another Spanner In The Works By Claiming That The Coal Scam That Dominated Prime Minister Singh’s Tenure Could Have Been Avoided. Baru’s Book Can Be Termed As An Outcome For The Deep Sense Of Resentment He Nursed For Not Being Re-Inducted Into The Prime Minister’s Office In 2009. However, Parakh Retired After 36 Years In The Civil Service. He Has A Reputation For Integrity And Ability And He Has Worked With Several Governments.

His Account Is A Memoir That Both Inspires And Depresses. The Book Contains Several Shocking Disclosures About Corporate Entities And Ministers And How Attempts Were Made At Various Levels To Scuttle The Open Auction Of Coal Blocks. The Incidents Of Bjp National General Secretary And Mp, Upper House Mr Dharmendra Pradhan And Former Cm Shibu Soren Have Been Described In Detail And Reveal The Body Rot That Has Set Into The System. The Revelations About The Other Parties Like The Jmm, The Tdp And The Trinamool Congress Too Are On Predictable Lines. The 68-Year-Old Author Said In His Book That He Had Submitted His Resignation After Bjp Mp Dharmendra Pradhan Had Insulted Him During A Parliamentary Standing Committee Meeting.

“On August 17, 2005 I Met The Prime Minister For A Farewell Call. I Wanted To Express My Concern At The Insult And Humiliation That Members Of Parliament Heap On Civil Servants And Senior Executives Of Public Service Undertakings,” He Said In His Book.

The Prime Minister’s Office Cannot Dismiss Both The Books Because They Have Stark Details Of How The Highest Office Of The Land, And How Manmohan Singh Thought And Acted. The Bjp Too Cannot Use It As A Weapon Because The Book Shows Some Of Its Key Men Seriously Out Of Control.

The Books Are Not Treatises On Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister Is Mentioned Where Needed; His Strengths And Weaknesses Are Discussed In Context. The Book Is An Important Contribution To India At This Juncture. Parakh Writes That Manmohan Singh, By Continuing To Head A Government In Which He Had Little Political Authority, Tarnished His Own Image Which Was Already Seriously Dented By The 2g Scam, Although He Has Had A Spotless Record Of Personal Integrity. He Speculates Whether The Country Would Have Got A Better Prime Minister If Manmohan Singh Had Resigned, Instead Of Facing The Humiliation Of His Own Ministers Not Implementing Or Reversing His Decision.

Even Staunch Critics Will Have To Admit That Manmohan Singh Maintained The Highest Standards Of Personal Probity In Public Life, But One Cannot Overlook That Fact That He Turned A Blind Eye To The Misdeeds Of His Ministers And Did Little To Stop Corruption During His Second Term In Office. The Pm’s Daughter, Upinder Singh—A Professor Of History Who Has Until Now Avoided Commenting On Her Father’s Decade In Office—Condemned The Book. She Described It As “Nothing But A Stab In The Back…A Huge Betrayal Of Trust” And A “Mischievous, Unethical” Exercise.

One Thing Is Certain. These Books Will Now Set A Trend Of Tell-All Books, In Which Bureaucrats In The Corridors Of Power Will Pen Their Memoirs. M O Mathai’s Famous Book Reminiscences Of The Nehru Age Written In 1978 Had Raised The Hackles Of The Nehru Gandhi Dynasty. In The Days To Some, Many Reminiscences Will Come Up, All The Better For Democracy.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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