In the first reaction from the family of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his eldest daughter Upinder Singh has severely criticised the book written by his former aide Sanjaya Baru, calling it “nothing but a stab in the back…a huge betrayal of trust’’ and a “mischievous, unethical’’ exercise.
Speaking to The Indian Express at her residence in Delhi University, where she teaches history, Upinder Singh said that the timing as well as the contents of the book raise issues of the author violating both the trust of the Prime Minister as well as the access he enjoyed.
“While I am not speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, we are extremely angry at the exaggerated level of access the author has ascribed to himself,” she said. “It is an audacious account with so-called quotes, of even the Prime Minister, which have been recorded as facts. Reported speech has been used as direct speech. Is this ethical?’’
Clearly miffed at the timing of the publication of the book (titled The Accidental Prime Minister) the Prime Minister’s daughter said that since it hit the market in the middle of the general elections, it could hardly be described as an “unbiased or objective book”. She countered comments of the author that the publisher decided the timing of the release by saying, “I have written several books and know that authors have a say in the timing of the release. To me, there are other reasons for the timing. It is absurd to say there is no political motive. Sanjaya Baru cannot describe himself as a well-wisher of the Prime Minister.’’
She added: “We all knew a book was in the air and he (Sanjaya Baru) met me recently at a wedding. When I asked him when the book would be out, he said, ‘Naturally, after the elections.’ What we did not know is that he was going to piece together gossip and unverified quotes, including some of my father, and use them as statements of fact.’’
In an attempt to distance the Prime Minister from the events described in the book, Upinder pointed out that the author was never part of the decision-making process in the PMO. Her view: “He is holding forth and projecting himself in the centre of events which is not true and he had no access to files. It is not as if he was the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. So what are the sources he has used? I spot an element of self-promotion in these assertions.’’
Giving an indication that she had been following the controversies and talk-shows held after the launch of the book, Upinder said that the author has admitted he nursed a deep sense of resentment on not being re-inducted into the PMO in 2009. “If he himself felt betrayed how can he write an objective account? Even if he wants to gain politically by writing such a book everyone will see that he has betrayed the trust of one Prime Minister. He has provided fodder to his (Prime Minister’s) opponents. Will they trust him now? I would not.’’
While Upinder clarified that she did not want to discuss specific events or episodes described in the book she pointed out, “The impression I have is that the relation between the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi is one of utmost trust and respect. The book also gives an impression that the Prime Minister wanted to cling to office in his second term. This is such a misreading of his personality.’’
Meanwhile, even as the PM’s family is preparing to move out of Race Course Road, it was the safekeep of his books that was uppermost in the Prime Ministers mind, she said. “I do not think he is planning to write anything immediately but he is busy sorting out his books and papers. He has a huge book collection and wants each book to be taken care of in the new house.’’
She added that as Prime Minister, her father never took time off for holidays. They were all hoping to, finally, soon take off for a family holiday maybe to a hill station like Shimla. “My son is planning several things he can do with his grandfather once he retires…My mother is also looking forward to a period when the pressures of the job are no longer there.’’