New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh found managing coalition allies less challenging than managing hisown party and regarded NCP leader Sharad Pawar as an “ally” against critics in the cabinet, says a new book.
The book, written by Sanjaya Baru, media adviser to Manmohan Singh during his first term as prime minister, said former human resource development minister Arjun Singh and Defence Minister A.K. Antony remained “difficult colleagues to handle” for the prime minister.
The book “The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh” (Penguin) hit the stands Friday.
It says Manmohan Singh had a good equation with Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad even if he did not always approve of their conduct.
“With Pawar, there was a special relationship. Dr. Singh often recalled how Pawar always lent support to him whenever his policies came under attack from within the Congress party.
“He regarded Pawar as an ‘ally’ against his critics in the cabinet, like Arjun Singh, A.K. Antony and Vayalar Ravi,” the book said.
It said that while Ravi maintained a low profile in the United Progressive Alliance government, both Arjun Singh and Antony remained difficult colleagues to handle.
“Arjun Singh would openly defy the prime minister or be critical of his policies, and Antony was guarded in public but difficult in private, often disagreeing with him on his foreign, defence and economic policy initiatives,” the book said.
“For Dr. Singh, managing the coalition allies was less challenging than managing his own party.
“He was acutely aware that this was the Congress party’s first attempt at stitching together and running a multi-party coalition government,” it said.
The book said Manmohan Singh was conscious of the fact that he may have been chosen by Congress president Sonia Gandhi but he became prime minister because of implicit consensus on his name within the UPA.
“In the end, Dr. Singh was always conscious of the fact that while he may have been ‘chosen’ by Sonia to become PM, he had, in fact, become PM as a consequence of an implicit consensus within the UPA coalition as a whole that he was the best man for the job.
“In other words, he entered office as Sonia’s nominee, but he settled down and retained his office as the consensual and implicit choice of all the UPA allies, especially Karunanidhi, Pawar and Lalu, and indeed even the ‘Bengal faction’ of the CPI-M,” the book said.