PM 'surrendered' to Sonia Gandhi, allies: Former media adviser

New Delhi, Apr 12, 2014: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been “defanged” by the Congress party in his second term with Sonia Gandhi deciding on key appointments to the Cabinet and to the PMO as he seemed to “surrender” to her and to the UPA constituents.

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 Manmohan’s “often troubled” relations with his ministers.

Baru, a senior editor and PM’s Media Adviser between 2004 and 2008, quotes Manmohan 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 Manmohan 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.

Manmohan 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.