THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER BY SHANTONU SEN
Sanjaya Baru Baru has spilled the beans. He has revealed a great secret. Democracy has been ill-served . Two centres of power is utterly wrong. Since Accidental Prime Minister hit the stands such remarks have been flying all over the place. Some people have gone overboard, They have used phrases which amount to epithets , both for the present Prime Minister and the current President of the Indian National Congress- a wimp and an exercise of power without responsibilty, to choose the least offensive are among the many expressions for the PM of India and the President of the Congress respectively.
The fact that the President of a Political Party which has been voted to power in a General Election for the Parliament decides who will be the Prime Minister of the country in consultation with his/her Committee, in this case the All India Congress Committee is not denied . When UPA 1 came to power the Congress Party, unanimously, acclaimed, if one goes by all accounts of those days , that its President , Sonia Gandhi, should be the Prime Minister. She chose Man Mohan Singh as Prime Minister of India. Be that as it may the Part’s nominee as Prime Minister has a duty to carry out the manifesto of the party and the President of the Party has a duty to see that its mandate is faithfully implemented by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. In this, President of the Party is aided, advised by a group of office beares of the Party who have been elected to that position in Party elections and others whom the President selects . This is true of all democracies where the Westminister form of Government is in practice. The Prime Minister is numero uno in his Cabinet but he is the servant of his Party and has to listen to and carry out the instructions of the Party and these instructions are normally conveyed by the President of the Party to him. The Party’s commands have had weight in the past too.
Jawahar Lal Nehru did not wish that Babu Rajendra Prasad should be given a second tenure as President of India. He wanted that position for Dr. S. Radhakrishnan. The Party compelled him to step back and sent him to appease Rajendra Prasad who very displeased that the PM had made such a decision and request him to accept a second tenure as Rashtrapati. He did not want Purshottam Das Tandon elected as President of the Indian National Congress but the Party chose to elect him despite knowing the Prime Minister did not wish it to happen . Prime Minister did not quit because he was thwarted. In the time of the current President of the Congress when both Foreign Secretary and Foreign Minister wanted to replace India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, the President of the Party directed other wise. She was of the considered opinion that the incumbent was needed at that juncture to continue for the next 2 years to represent India’s position at the U N. Incidentally, the person selected to replace the incumbent, finally, took over two years later and after completing his tenure in the UN he has joined the BJP recently! The extent that the President of the Congress Party , must/ should inluence can be questioned. However, that the President of the Party / the party itself can direct/ influence the Prime Minister is very much in order. What should be the extent of direction/influence? Can a IPS officer cleared for appointment as Director of CBI by the Appointment Committee on the direction of the Party President replaced, at the last moment, by another IPS officer? This has happened too.
Sanjay Baru has defended the failures of UPA 2 on the’ interference ‘ but has lauded the successes of UPA1 despite much more interference . The Co-ordination Committee of UPA1 included the Left and I know for a fact that Sita Ram Yechury and others constantly had their way. The interaction between the UPA Convenor who was also the President of the Indian National Congress/ Co-ordination Committee and the Prime Minister was good for UPA1. In NDA 1 the PM also has to contend with directions from the Sangh Parivar. He did not always succeed in having his way. Similarly the current President of the Party always did not succeed with the present Prime Minister. I know that the President wanted the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister replaced and she did not succeed for a long time. When he was replaced he was reappointed as Advisor to the PM and remains a centre of power in the PMO . This “interference” is part of the Westminister form of Government should continue. If it ceases or is blocked alarm bells should ring. No PM can be permitted untrammelled powers. The degree and extent of ” interference” and the gains and losses of the ” interference” and the anecdotes of who won and who last , when, where of it all will be judged by observers and participants and it is right that it is so done. Sanjoy Baru has done a yeoman’s service by recording a history of his times.
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