- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (16 July 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143424068
- ISBN-13: 978-0143424062
- Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 2.1 x 13.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 352 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh (City Plans) Paperback – 16 Jul 2015
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About the Author
Sanjaya Baru is director for geo-economics and strategy, International Institute for Strategic Studies, and honorary senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. He has been chief editor, the Financial Express and Business Standard. His other books include The Strategic Consequences of India’s Economic Performance (2007).
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In his telling, he is the PM's sword and shield in UPA-I, going beyond the call of duty to help him navigate a treacherous world where there is a schemer seemingly behind every door. The way he writes it, even normal politicking and factionalism in the Congress party takes on dark undertones. This makes for good reading, but one wouldn't go so far as to call it a "balanced" view. Baru intends to be seen as taking up the cudgels on behalf of PM Singh, to present a thesis on the source of the problems that plagued UPA-II (note that UPA-II itself is not covered here.) But in doing so it only confirms the prevailing media narrative of the time, and perhaps that is why it was received so well when it came out in 2014 (just before the elections). Baru wanted his boss to be something that he was not, that he did not have much intention of being, and that he could not possibly have been considering the circumstances; this is the source of all of Baru's disappointment, and of what he calls a "tragedy".
However, once you move away from the central thread, there are a few other more interesting things that are also covered. This may have been unintentional, but in the first few chapters, you get an idea of just how incestuous are the power circles in New Delhi. Everybody seems to know everybody else's dad. To the aam aadmi of suspicious bearing such as oneself, marooned from centres of power, it does tend to look like a pseudo-oligarchy, although a very well-educated one. There are also tidbits about the pushes and pulls of managing a coalition government, and on the various personalities that studded the firmament of UPA-I. One wishes there was more of this. Finally, it is the personality of the PM himself that makes the book worth reading. History, as he once said, will certainly be a kinder judge to him than the media (or the media adviser, for that matter.)
Does this book read like a "thriller"? No, unless all the thrillers you read are political memoirs by economist-editors. Does it present anything new that someone who reads the papers regularly wouldn't know? No, not really. Does the author make judgments and assumptions? Yes. But if you enjoy reading about politics, or had an interest in UPA-I, then sure, this will do just fine, if taken with a grain of salt.
A fantastic book by Baru. Reads like a thriller.
Read this book to understand the workings of PMO and more importantly how Dr Singh navigated his first term.
It is sad that we lost 5 years of nation building opportunity just because of few people at the helm of affairs. I recommend that everyone should this book.