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THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER THE MAKING AND UNMAKING OF MANMOHAN SINGH SANJAYA BARU VIKING Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi 110 017, India Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) Penguin Group (Australia), 707 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3008, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) Penguin Group (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, Block D, Rosebank Office Park, 181 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North, Johannesburg 2193, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England First published in Viking by Penguin Books India 2014 Copyright © Sanjaya Baru 2014 All rights reserved 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 The views and opinions expressed in this book are the author’s own and the facts are as reported by him which have been verified to the extent possible, and the publishers are not in any way liable for the same. ISBN 9780670086740 Typeset in Bembo by R. Ajith Kumar, New Delhi Printed at Thomson Press India Ltd, New Delhi This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser and without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above-mentioned publisher of this book. In memory of my mentors H.Y. Sharada Prasad and K. Subrahmanyam Contents Introduction The Book I Chose to Write ix 1 The Call from PMO 1 2 Getting to Know Dr Singh 12 3 Manmohan’s PMO 29 4 Managing the Coalition 62 5 Responsibility without Power 90 6 Brand Manmohan 105 7 Manmohan’s Camelot 127 8 ‘Promises to Keep’ 138 9 The Manmohan Singh Doctrine 160 10 Making Borders Irrelevant 178 11 Ending Nuclear Apartheid 198 12 Singh Is King 235 13 A Victory Denied 256 Epilogue Manmohan’s Legacy 271 Acknowledgements 287 Index 289 Introduction The Book I Chose to Write None of my predecessors in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has ever written a full account of his time there. Editors, some far more distinguished than I, who served various prime ministers as media advisers, such as Kuldip Nayar, B.G. Verghese, Prem Shankar Jha and H.K. Dua, did not do so, nor did officials who performed those duties, such as G. Parthasarathy, Ram Mohan Rao and P.V.R.K. Prasad. Parts of Nayar’s and Verghese’s memoirs do, of course, cover that period of their careers, and Prasad has written a series of columns in the Telugu press on his tenure in South Block, but no one has devoted an entire book to his years at the PMO, reflecting on his boss’s personality and policies. This reticence is peculiar to India. In both the United States and Britain, several press secretaries to Presidents and prime ministers respectively, have written freely about their jobs and their bosses. In India, my most distinguished and longest-serving predecessor, H.Y. Sharada Prasad, set a very different tone. An unfailingly discreet and low-profile man, he was Indira Gandhi’s information adviser, speech-writer and confidant for almost all her sixteen years as prime minister, yet had to be coaxed, over several years, before he agreed to write a few newspaper columns about his time at the PMO. I first met the legendary Sharada Prasad in 1981 when he was at the height of his career, serving an all-powerful Indira Gandhi who had been re-elected prime minister in 1980 with a landslide vote after being rejected in the General Elections of 1977. I was visiting Delhi ix x Introduction a few weeks after my marriage and my wife, Rama, was keen that I should meet family friend ‘Shourie mama’, as she had addressed him since her childhood, and his wi

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