The Accidental Prime Minister- Implications for National Security
Not surprisingly Sanjay Baru’s book has created enormous stir.
While the PMO and Congress circles close to the dynasty have criticised the book as travesty and ranting of a person denied a second term after the resounding Congress victory in 2009, most others have been surprised, horrified and alarmed at the revelations.
Therefore, it becomes essential to take measure of the veracity of what has been written.
Regardless of opinions expressed on the contents of the book or the motives for writing the same as also the timing of the release, it can be safely stated that up to this point Dr. Sanjay Baru was held in high esteem by his peers in the profession and the public that read his articles.
There may have been differences of opinion on the numerous pieces written by him, few would be able to recall criticism directed at the persona of Dr. Baru.
Hence, the charges of gross misrepresentation or being influenced by extraneous factors or disappointment can easily be set aside.
Similarly, the harshest criticism has largely been made by interested parties out to protect the reputation of the Prime Minister and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi as also persons who feel upset or slighted by what has been written about them.
For the informed public at large, across the political divide, the serious charges made about the manner in which government was being run with a pliant Prime Minister who just carried out instructions from above ring true.
What is more, people had long suspected that the government was being run by the dynasty for the dynasty.
The National Interest, whenever it clashed with the Dynasty’s Interest was ignored, even subverted.
At the end of the day the charge made by Sanjay Baru of near-total dynastic control on all important appointments in practically every sphere of governance has extremely serious ramifications for National Security.
The signs that the National Interest was being sacrificed by an unaccountable extra-constitutional entity wielding immense power, whose foreign background, antecedents, travels and interactions – both within India and abroad - have never been fully investigated or allowed to be revealed was suspected by many in political, and media circles and certainly by all those in close proximity to the power hierarchy in the capital, not to mention foreign circles.
The Prime Minister’s acquiescence to diktats from 10 Janpath are recorded in Baru’s book; what has not been recorded is the utter helplessness and lack of spine shown by the man when he was bypassed by ministers and bureaucrats, including in the PMO, carrying out instructions of Mrs. Gandhi without even keeping him informed.
Close friends of the PM whom he confided in often have revealed his anguish at some of the incidents where he was kept totally in the dark.
One of these, according to sources close to the PM relates to the de-freezing of Quatrochi’s account in the UK. The matter was sub judice. Yet it is most unlikely that the Law or Home ministries would have kept record of the directions for its execution.
Such serious misconduct should have alarmed the entire cabinet and the senior civil servants in the government.
Apparently no one protested in the charmed circle of ministers appointed by Soniaji.
One of the biggest anti-national acts was carried out by the lady right at the beginning of UPA I when she selected Shivraj Patil to be the Home Minister of India at a time when the country was exposed to serious threats from terrorism, both home grown and from across the border(s); a good parliamentarian who was clearly out of his depth as home minister.
He had been placed there with a one-point agenda: to clear all cases against Quattrochi. He delivered admirably and finally when his deficiencies could not be condoned any longer after 26/11 he was relieved among strong public clamour and replaced by Mr. Chidambram, a far abler person for the job.
On occasions when the media criticized Mr. Patil he was on record as saying that he was satisfied that the authority that had placed him in the home minister’s chair was pleased with his performance. Evidently that is all he cared about. Madam was pleased. He had delivered. It began and ended there. How did it matter what the Nation felt.
The Law Ministry played its part equally admirably. Both the law and the home ministers, when the pressure to replace them could not be opposed any longer were dispatched as governors, rewarded for outstanding devotion to duty – not to the Nation; to the lady at 10 Janpath.
Not a whimper from the PM or his cabinet colleagues.
Examples from other ministries and agencies – many now in the public domain or part of PILs before the Court – abound.
In a few years they will all come tumbling out.
Actually what happened in the UPA decades when Sonia G wielded unchallenged power was a throw back to an earlier era. She was privy to the fact that during Rajiv Gandhi’s regime Quatrochi wielded enormous power. He could walk into almost any ministry without let or hindrance and influence decisions. He was a law unto himself. Sonia Gandhi evidently watched the master influence peddler with awe and admiration. She did not know that she would have her day. It came sooner than she expected.
Denials about classified files being shown in 10 Janpath are not likely to convince the people of India.
There would be many in the government who would be willing to swear to the goings-on on affidavit were they to be summoned by the courts should a new government or the courts decide on a SIT to investigate the comprehensive destruction of parliamentary democracy as embodied and embedded in the PM and the Council of Ministers according to the Constitution.
Several pronouncements and actions from 10 Janpath bespeak a good grasp of classified matters.
There can hardly be any doubt that the list of holders of illegal monies stashed abroad was made known to her and through her to the charmed 10 Janpath circle.
A RTI query was passed around between the cabinet secretary and the MEA without eliciting any worthwhile response. Questions are bound to arise as to whether such information was used to keep the wrong-doers in check or whether they were made to part with some of the wealth – to whom?
A yet more grave matter is the goings-on within 10 Janpath and the guests who stayed there, mostly family and friends from abroad as there would be no one left in the Nehru or Feroze Gandhi families who would be welcome to stay.
Such secrecy should be unacceptable where ultimate authority is wielded by an extra-constitutional authority or family not bound by any oath of secrecy.
It is well on the cards that nationally important matters would have been discussed in family circles within the hallowed precincts.
By the same token sudden visits abroad at critical junctures by Mrs. Gandhi and on occasions accompanied by her children (quite apart from the US visits for treatment) were surrounded by such a veil of secrecy that they defy any reasonable explanation. Links to the events that could have threatened the dynasty’s interests can be gleaned. Followed through logically they lead into a frightening dark alley.
Whatever the secrecy within the country there are foreign agencies that kept track of the places visited and much else.
Indian embassies were seldom kept in the picture.
In fact, after the Bofors exposures ambassadors of India to sensitive countries in Europe were reportedly selected keeping in mind the loyalty factor and the need to ensure that the embassies did not make requests for embarrassing details.
After the revelations of the book should one make the assumption that something similar could be happening even now after the Augusta-Westland case came to light?
Tragically for India and its security, people have to raise these questions to demand of their political masters as to how the country could have sunk so low.
Why only blame Sonia Gandhi and her close circle that enjoyed unimaginable benefits, power and presumably amassed untold wealth.
Almost the entire political class occupying the sprawling Lutyens Delhi bungalows for years and decades on end did not wish to upset the applecart.
The same goes for crony capitalism and large portion of the media heads that were very much alive to what was happening.
The ultimate tragedy is that leaving aside the weak prime minister how does one explain that none of the Congress ministers in the cabinet put their foot down or quit when all along they were privy to the country’s interest being sold down the river by what was and remains a foreigner-led dispensation.
Many of the ministers were luminaries in their own rights with outstanding practices bringing in enormous wealth.
Can one even approach the President of India in this regard? Even he delivered.
The DTAT with Switzerland had the key clause to which no satisfactory answer was given by anybody in the government as to why the agreement would be prospectively operative after April 1, 2012 and all cases prior to that would stand closed and not available for scrutiny or words to that effect. Even the Swiss ambassador’s interview of the time to the press reveals a lot.
To conclude the decline in India since the UPA governance decade under the aegis of Sonia Gandhi is so steep and so palpable that hardly anyone in India or outside the country doubts it.
During UPA II the mandate for the Congress Party led by Dr. Manmohan Singh and SG was so impressive that it could have been used to pull up India in every sphere of governance internally and project it to the front ranks of the comity of nations externally had the interest of the country been foremost in the reckoning of the dynasty.
It was undeniably not.
The current state of the nation impels concerned Indians to look deeper into the reasons for the national decline.
The foremost reason that stares one in the face and which not many people dared to openly question up to now while the dynasty wielded untrammeled power and used it with ruthless determination is that subliminally sacrificing the National Interest to perpetuate itself has become part of the DNA of the Dynasty as it nears its end-point.
The book is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
It is to be hoped that a successor government would order an impartial investigation into the manner of governance in the UPA decades with a view to ensure that the security and sanctity of the Nation is never again compromised in this manner.
Vinod Saighal, Maj Gen
Convenor, MRGG, Author Revitalising Indian Democracy.