The Accidental Prime Minister

The Accidental Prime Minister

The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh

Paperback - 2015
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In 2004 Sanjaya Baru left a successful career as chief editor of the Financial Express to join Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as his media adviser in UPA 1. Singh offered him the job with the words, 'Sitting here, I know I will be isolated from the outside world. I want you to be my eyes and ears. Tell me what you think I should know, without fear or favour.'

The Accidental Prime Minister is Baru's account of what it was like to 'manage' public opinion for Singh while giving us a riveting look at Indian politics as it happened behind the scenes. As Singh's spin doctor and trusted aide for four years, Baru observed up close Singh's often troubled relations with his ministers, his cautious equation with Sonia Gandhi and how he handled the big crises from managing the Left to pushing through the nuclear deal. In this book he tells all and draws for the first time a revelatory picture of what it was like for Singh to work in a government that had two centres of power.

Insightful, acute and packed with political gossip, The Accidental Prime Minister is one of the great insider accounts of Indian political life and a superb portrait of the Manmohan Singh era.

'You see, you must understand one thing. I have come to terms with this. There cannot be two Centres of power.' Manmohan Singh

Publisher: Gurgaon, India : Penguin Books, 2015.
Copyright Date: c2014
ISBN: 9780670086740
Branch Call Number: 320.954
Characteristics: xvi, 301 pages ; 24 cm


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Jul 23, 2014

The book gives a clear idea about how complex it is to run a government. There are so many participants, all precariously strung together, and contrary to public opinion 'the first among the equal' is not, in fact, the most powerful. Though Dr. Singh was more submissive than an usual PM, but I feel even a PM with a majority would have as many factions in his own party to keep happy.

For the common man, who demands changes in 100 days, this book is a MUST. Running a government is a mammoth task and we are too eager to rush to judgements. We love to portray our leaders in black or white, but in reality to run a successful government '50 shades of grey' are needed.

The intricate details that go into policy making is well enunciated by the author. e.g. The nuclear bill and Dr. Singh's struggle starting with the Americans to his own party members is an eye opener. The irony of a democracy is well spelt out by Dr. Baru about how the biggest blows a PM gets are from his own rather than from the opposition.

When I read this book the only image I could think of is that of Dr. Singh as the Greek hero Sisyphus rolling the big boulder up the hill only to watch it roll back down. The only thing I wonder is what made an erudite scholar like him roll the boulder for two terms? Was it ambition, or loyalty or just mere acceptance of fate?

The book is a love letter. Platonic might I add, but a love letter nevertheless written by a student for his much beloved 'Guru'. Dr. Baru tries very hard to be critical but the chapter 'Manmohan's Camelot' is written in earnest admiration and is not mere flattery.

Lastly, I wish Dr.Singh would also put pen to paper and leave his legacy behind. He said that 'Public office offers the opportunity to be educated at public expense'. Well Dr. Singh, public office also demands to educate the Public.


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