Two tell-all books have created a storm, documenting the alleged shortcomings of outgoing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Amid current electioneering, they have put the ruling Congress party on the back foot.
In the midst of a bitterly contested election campaign between the ruling Congress party and the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), two candid books by former insiders in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government have set the metaphorical cat among the pigeons.
The former press advisor to Prime Minister Singh, Sanjaya Baru, whose tome "The Accidental Prime Minister - The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan" was released early last week, has been the most damaging. The book, which has proved a runaway success, claims that Singh was "defanged."
The book essentially paints Congress President Sonia Gandhi as the power behind the throne, almost directly controlling the Prime Minister's Office.
After ten years at the helm of Indian affairs, Singh is set to step down as Prime Minister following the parliamentary elections. Critics say though he maintained the highest standards of personal probity in public life, he turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of his ministers and did little to stop corruption during his second term in office
But, providing a ringside view of the events that unfolded between 2004 and 2008 when he was the press advisor, Baru claims that Singh was not in full control. On many occasions, Baru claims, the premier was forced to toe the party line.
"There is really nothing substantial in the book that people were not aware of and the timing has nothing to do with the elections," Baru told DW, playing down the raging controversy.
With the dust barely settling down, former coal secretary P C Parakh grabbed the limelight. His book, "Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and other Truths" caused more upset, with claims that the coal scandal that dominated Prime Minister Singh's tenure could have been avoided.
The book contains several shocking disclosures about corporate entities and ministers and how attempts were made at various levels to scuttle the open auction of coal blocks.
As expected, the books provided ammunition to the BJP, which lost little time in making political capital of the situation. The party raised the issue in public rallies and attacked Sonia Gandhi for belittling the constitutional office of the prime minister.
"These books have raised serious questions about the way this government functioned and set its priorities. It clearly shows the prime minister was not it control and this leads us to ask questions from Sonia Gandhi. The first family cannot run away from (giving the) answers," said BJP spokesperson Nrmala Sitharaman.
In damage-control mode, the government fielded the Prime Minister's family and cabinet ministers to rubbish the books as well as question the timing of the publication of the books with the controversies refusing to die down.
"The aim of these books (coming out now) is that they will create an upheaval and spoil the hopes of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (Congress' coalition) in the elections," Farooq Abdullah, Minister of New and Renewable Energy, told DW.
Manmohan Singh's eldest daughter, Upinder Singh - a professor of history who has until now avoided commenting on her father's decade in office - condemned the book. She described it as "nothing but a stab in the back…a huge betrayal of trust" and a "mischievous, unethical" exercise.
She further alleged that Baru nursed a deep sense of resentment for not being re-inducted into the Prime Minister's Office in 2009.
At his last press conference as Prime Minister in January, Singh said that history would be kinder to him than the contemporary media, or for that matter, the opposition parties in Parliament."
The books have not helped his case much.
Author: Murali Krishnan