Senior BJP leaders on Sunday attacked ruling Congress and prime minister Manmohan Singh over a book written by a former aide of Singh, saying it is a confirmation of what the world already knew that he is a "weak" PM and Sonia Gandhi had the last word in government matters.
Party patriarch L K Advani led the BJP charge as he referred to his 2009 campaign in which he had harped about Singh being the "weakest" ever PM and said the book written by Sanjaya Baru confirms what the world already knew.
"The world already knows what he (Baru) has said but the book is an official confirmation. When I said for the first time that among all our PMs he (Singh) is the weakest, then my own colleagues said he is a nice man and why criticise him so much. I said I feel sad and had sympathy for him," Advani told reporters in Ahmedabad.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley sought to draw a parallel between the UPA government and old communist states, wondering if Sonia Gandhi was like the general secretary of the communist party who had the last word and not prime minister Manmohan Singh.
Quoting the book, he said it confirms what the country "suspected" that the PM had to get most of his decisions approved and ratified from the Congress president and all sensitive subjects had to be discussed with the person outside the government.
"Did he (PM) have the last word on all subjects? Or is it the system of the original communist states that was operating, where the party general secretary was always more important than the head of the government," Jaitley wrote on his blog.
"Among various institutions which have been dwarfed in the UPA regime, the principal one was the office of the Prime Minister itself," he said.
"The appointments of key officials would be regulated by 10 Janpath (Gandhi's residence). Contracts such as the coal blocks allocations were allotted by the party. Even the venue for the funeral of former Prime Minister P V Narsimha Rao was decided on collateral considerations....," he said.
"All sensitive subjects have to be discussed with the person outside the government," Jaitley alleged.
Taking a dig at Singh, he said prime ministership is not an employment but a public service and an exercise by which leadership is provided to the people.
"On the eve of relinquishing the office, Dr Manmohan Singh must seriously introspect as to how his tenure impacted on the institution of prime minister," he said.
The book, The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh, has said that Singh had been "defanged" by the Congress party in his second term with Sonia Gandhi deciding on key appointments to the Cabinet and to the PMO as he seemed to "surrender" to her and to the UPA constituents.
Allegations baseless: PMO
New Delhi: The Prime Minister's Office on Sunday hit out at Sanjaya Baru, former media adviser, saying his book contending that prime minister Manmohan Singh was undermined by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi smacks of "fiction" and is a "coloured" view and rubbished as "baseless and mischievous that its files were seen by her.
"The statement being attributed to a former Media Adviser to the prime minister that PMO files were seen by the Congress president, Smt. Sonia Gandhi is completely baseless and mischievous.
It is categorically denied that any PMO file has ever been shown to Smt. Sonia Gandhi," PMO spokesman Pankaj Pachauri said in a statement here.
Pachauri was responding to the claims by Baru in his book and comments to media that the prime minister's principal secretary Pulok Chatterjee would seek "instructions" from Gandhi on important PMO decisions.
Criticising Baru, the PMO statement said, "The book written by the former media adviser is an attempt to misuse a privileged position and access to high office to gain credibility and to apparently exploit it for commercial gain.
The commentary smacks of fiction and coloured views of a former adviser."
The statement reiterated that "the question about comments of the former media adviser was raised by senior editors when they met the prime minister in October last year. His answer was "- Do not believe all he is saying".
The PMO statement came amidst strong attack by the opposition on Gandhi and the Prime Minister, using the claims by Baru.
Baru today claimed that the book is "very balanced" and also highlighted the achievements of UPA but said the media has only focussed on the criticism in it.
"I have said in my introduction that the book says both good and critical things," he said.
"More than 50 per cent of the book records the facts where he took decisions where he showed resolve...This was a PM(Manmohan) who did a lot and the book records that," he added.