It is easy for UPA2 to rubbish Sanjaya Baru’s book The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister’s Office had employed Baru as the PM’s media adviser and there was talk of reemployment, which didn’t happen.
Partings are mostly bitter in the Indian workplace and employers tend to malign the employee. They did so with Baru as well. It didn’t work because it never does. His book has sold out everywhere.
The Indian polity has, in contrast, been shocked into silence by former coal secretary PC Parakh’s book, Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and Other Truths. [Disclosure: I edited the book.]
Parakh retired after 36 years in the civil service. He was given a traditional farewell with the warmth and goodwill that senior officers get when they don’t have to return to work. He was not fired.
The government thus has nothing to tar Parakh with. He has substantial reputation for integrity and ability and he worked with several governments. His book is a mirror to the civil service, which is the core governance tool available in India.
It is a rock-solid account of what work with bigwigs was like. It is a memoir that inspires and depresses by turn. The heroism and sense of clarity inspire. Parakh doesn’t give an inch in his meetings with politicians.
It’s like a titanic tug-of-war as Parakh details conversations with vast implications. Don’t miss his conversation with Shibu Soren which is verbatim.
The consistent putdown of rules and principles, and everything that a system works by, depresses. The fall of India from a role model nation to a basket case country comes through with minimum fuss and maximum effect.
Parakh uses no adjectives. He simply tells his story. It therefore easy to run through. You could, for instance, read it on plane or train and disembark a different person. The Congress cannot employ this book because it tells the world how rotten the Congress core has become.
The Prime Minister’s Office cannot dismiss the book because it has stark details of how the highest office of the land, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, thought and acted. The BJP cannot weaponise the book because it shows some of its key men seriously out of control.
The JMM, the TDP and the Trinamool Congress too cannot do a thing because the book shares what they are like. Parakh is definitely not Baru. He has more stuff than the polity can handle. This is why no political party has fussed over Parakh’s book like they did with Baru’s.
Part I of the book, which is essentially a memoir, deals with Parakh’s stint in Andhra Pradesh where his career began. Don’t miss the opening chapters. They offer deep insights into what happens with IAS officers when they enter the civil service.
Part II is where the mainstream media is digging for headlines. It deals with Parakh’s stint in the coal ministry. He starts with a delightful chapter on what Mamata Banerjee did. He ends with the big daddy – his efforts to open up coal mining processes which have since become the crux of the infamous coal scam, known as Coalgate.
Parakh’s time with Manmohan Singh, Soren and Dasari Narayana Rao – the coal ministers – is riveting. Prepare for a range of emotions as you ingest what Parakh serves. Rao, a Telugu film producer, is particularly compelling in his peculiar relationship with money and work.
Part III is where Parakh has solutions. They are simple and doable. They make you wonder why we don’t already employ what Parakh talks of. For instance, many nations have a code of conduct for politicians but India doesn’t.
Keep in mind also that Parakh is an accused in a CBI FIR filed on the allocation of a coal block to a private firm. Parakh uses it to skin the CBI which raided his Secunderabad home, virtually cross-examining CBI director Ranjit Sinha with a volley of questions.
The book is not a treatise on Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister is mentioned where needed; his strengths and weaknesses are discussed in context. The book is an important contribution to India. In time it could become mandatory reading for all who aspire to serve in the IAS.
A word or two about the publisher. Vivek Garg owns Manas Publications which brought out the book. Garg is a BJP member and an RTI activist. He has done a poor job with the production. The paper used is not great. He ought to change the font and improve the typesetting for future editions. And the annexures, a critical resource, are ruined. You’ll need magnifying glasses for them on most pages.
Add the book to your kitty anyway. It will help understand India and it is money well invested. Parakh has offered the proceeds from the book sales to Transparency International, a non-profit organisation that works to end corruption in public space, and an Indian NGO that works for children.
Book: Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and Other Truths
Author: PC Parakh
Price: Rs 595 [hardback]
Pages: 192 [266 with annexures]
Publisher: Manas Publications, Delhi