When it comes to the Congress party rule in India for the last quarter of a decade, the attributiveness displayed has always been that of a dynasty. This secessionist transfer of power from grandfather to daughter and subsequently to son has been the reality where the nation reeled under the realm of an impoverished socialism. When laggards of license raj were broken to open up to the world, the politics of the country plunged into the midst of coalition mantra and unstable governments. Emergence of BJP as the national alternative conjoined by splinters of developing regional parties took the dominating dynastical thunder of the Congress away. As India Shining campaigned by the BJP back fired them out of power, the shadows of dynastical monster again began to sweep the corridors of power in New Delhi.
Erstwhile, Gandhi family and their undeterred sway in the party and the govt was direct. Be it Nehru, the purported last Englishman to rule India, Indira Gandhi who’s iron fist regimes were virtual dictatorships and Rajiv Gandhi who on the backdrop of a sympathy wave saw him winning a record mandate. The defeat of the Vajpayee govt in 2004 saw the rebirth of family control but the means and the methods differed. Sonia Gandhi may have aspired to become the Prime Minister but owing to constitutional prohibition over foreign origin issue, she declined under the smokescreen of sacrifice and inner voice. Nevertheless, control was still established whilst ignoring leaders like Pranab Mukherjee, Manmohan Singh was anointed to the chair of the Prime Minister. This ‘remote controlled’ dynasty is something that was born out of the arrangement where a rubber stamp was the forefront behind which supreme authority rested in the hands of the Sonia Gandhi.
This dual centre of power at the times of the UPA has been accepted by own old war horses of the Congress which parlayed to reactions of it being an overstatement to some alleging witch hunting of economist turned PM. Self-soothing idioms for Manmohan Singh like ‘The right man in the wrong party’ or ‘man with honesty and integrity’ were made to portray Manmohan Singh as helpless rather than being a party to the whole power structure then. But time and time again, prominent people associated or non associated with UPA or incidents and situations have always reflected Manmohan Singh as the doorman of a cesspit that reached into the heart of the Congress high command.
Monumental scams flowed breaking records not just in terms of figures but also the way they flowed from its rejuvenating sources at the PMO. Be it the 2G scam and A Raja or the coal gate scam, the PMO lacked the will and the spine to effect authority and demonstrate who was the boss. Vinod Rai and the CAG team formed the crux of a puppet PM argument and more opinions formulated that outlook. Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister seemed to lack his own independent purview and was meddled with the interests of those who made him the PM at the first place. Sanjaya Baru, the wily media advisor to the PM came up with a book which further amplified the sound of the real power behind the PMO which may have been felt in murmurs. From appointments to policy decisions, the dramatisation of portraying criticism of the govt by Rahul Gandhi (remember tearing ordinance in a press conference) and even hogging the credit of any scheme or initiative introduced by the PM, the Gandhi parivar seemingly was running the show with their own appointed man Friday.
In a revelation that could be a further major embarrassment to the ever shrinking Congress and stir the debate once again about degrading the dignity of PMO,the govt of the day has declassified 710 files of the controversial National Advisory Council which was deemed having extra ordinary powers during the UPA. The NAC was the brain child of the Congress President which catered to advising UPA and comprised of activists, economists and industrialists. Much criticism of the council was made on the basis of the fact it seemed to don the role of a proxy alternative cabinet superseding the elected one. Sonia Gandhi being the chairman of the body was undoubtedly said to have centralised all policy and decision making prowess in her kitty rendering PMO into its purported worst powerless times.
The files released by the govt pertaining to the NAC may be some sort of a final nail in the coffin with regards to the debate. NAC seems to have enjoyed meddling in policy making, recommendations and wielding influence in various sectors under the guise of being an advisory entity. The fact PMO had to comply to their whims and fancies eroded the fundamentals of power structure in the capital. NAC bypassed PMO, summoned officers, wrote to ministers, sought compliance on reports and ensured UPA had no choice but to implement their recommendations and be on the same page. Coal, power, disinvestment, estate, governance and industry and the entanglement with every given sector under the sun was established by a ring of left leaning cheer leaders of a family. Even the controversial anti communal violence bill that was played down by political parties majorly that time was the idea of the same body which the UPA was vying to translate into law.The elitist socialist centric coterie of Sonia Gandhi in the midst of securing an all-inclusive growth donned public welfare schemes with poor implementation which riddled in more systemic corruption and steered mismanagement of the economy.
The zero accountability of the NAC coupled with no constitutional responsibility of Sonia Gandhi made Manmohan Singh as the fall guy who fitted more into puppet scheme of things in managing the show behind the curtains.
Any apprehensions about the undermining of the PMO during the times of the UPA are mere denials of a well documented sad truth. It is well known how George Bush as the President was puppet stringed at the behest of the neo conservative arm of the Republican party which pushed America into two unnecessary wars and a battering image world over. Manmohan Singh had done the same here, serving the interests of an oligarchy but carving an imaginary position of a super PM for his high command which was the only glaring difference.