Another book now says Sonia Gandhi called the shots

New Delhi : Charging the Congress party with becoming less democratic and more centralised, another book by technocrat Arun Maira released Tuesday says that party president Sonia Gandhi was the one who took key decisions on governance.

Although such a reference was made in just a few paragraphs in an otherwise 204-page book, it once again corraborated what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s media advisor from 2004-2008, academic-journalist Sanjaya Baru said in his recollections.

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“Sonia Gandhi chose not be become prime minister when she led the party to a stunning victory in the national elections in 2004. Instead, she anointed a loyal technocrat, Dr Manmohan Singh, as the prime minister, while she has called the shots on all important appointments and policies,” says Maira in the book: “Redesigning the Aeroplane while Flying”.

“Now her son, Rahul Gandhi, is being called upon to do his dynastic duty and lead the Congress party. Unfortunately, many other Indian political parties have also adopted similar autocratic and dynastic structures,” he said.

As a member of the Planning Commission, Maira, perhaps, has a decent insight into decision-making, involved as he was rather closely in drafting India’s 12th Five Year Plan since 2012-13.

Baru, in his book “The Accidental Prime Minister”, also staked similar claims.

Maira, who spent some 25 years in key positions in India and overseas with the Tata Group, said India’s principal political party, the Indian National Congress, which was in the vanguard of the freedom movement, and for whose redesign Gandhi had called the meeting in Sevagram in 1948, has become “less democratic and more centralised since then”.

“Its centralisation was accelerated by Indira Gandhi. And with her ascent to power, the party was set towards becoming a dynasty. Following her (Indira Gandhi), her son, Rajiv Gandhi, became prime minister. Then her daughter-in-law, Sonia Gandhi, became the president of the Congress party,” added the 71-year-old author, who was also chairman of the Boston Consulting Group, India.

The book highlights the need for reforming political as well as bureaucratic system of the country.

“More than sixty years after its Independence, India’s governance structures retain elements of the British government of India: civil services designed like iron frames (though rusting rapidly) and monarchical political parties in place of the British monarchy,” the author said in the chapter titled “The Rules of the Game.”

“Over these years, the world has been changing and India too…The inability of India’s institutions of governance to change adequately has resulted in the growing decline of citizens’ trust in them. Reforms of institutions has become imperative,” he said.