India: Vinod Mehta on Sanjaya Baru’s The Accidental Prime Minister


accidental-pmSanjaya Baru’s book, or “job application” as it is popularly being called, isn’t the first time he has applied for a job. A month or so before Congress came to power in the shock 2004 elections, Dr Baru wrote a strange article in The Indian Express eulogising Atal Behari Vajpayee and comparing him favourably to Nehru. Ironically, the job he eventually got was not in Vajpayee’s PMO but in the office of a Congress prime minister. From this position, between the years of 2004 and 2008 he ruthlessly embarked to implement his single-point agenda: create friction between Manmohan and Sonia.

There were at least three occasions when he was on the verge of being sacked. The party was putting immense pressure on Sonia telling her this “mischief maker” had to be removed. The book which is animated by a deep hatred for the ‘family’ (nothing wrong in that, we are all entitled to our loathings) is actually a stab in the back of Sonia Gandhi. It was she who saved him from the chop arguing that Manmohan, who has three daughters, treated Sanjay like the son he never had.

In one of my rare meetings with Sonia, I was surprised to discover how well she was info­r­med of Baru’s anti-party activities and his BJP tendencies. However, out of regard for the prime minister, she took no action. It is a decision she must be regretting. Incidentally, she also told me she was conscious of the opposition charge of backseat driving vis-a-vis the PM. “But I always arrive five minutes before he does at public functions, and I always leave after him,” she would say.

Early this week, when I went to a bookshop in Khan Market, I found they had placed Baru’s book on the ‘New Fiction’ counter. How appropriate.

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