File photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) today hit out at Sanjaya Baru, former media advisor, saying his book contending that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was undermined by Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi smacks of "fiction" and is a "coloured" view and rubbished as "baseless and mischievous" claims that its files were seen by her.
"The statement being attributed to a former Media Adviser to the Prime Minister that PMO files were seen by the Congress President, Smt. Sonia Gandhi is completely baseless and mischievous.
It is categorically denied that any PMO file has ever been shown to Smt. Sonia Gandhi," PMO spokesman Pankaj Pachauri said in a statement on Sunday.
Mr Pachauri was responding to the claims by Mr Baru in his book 'Accidential Prime Minister - The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh' and comments to media that the Prime Minister's Principal Secretary Pulok Chatterjee would seek "instructions" from Mrs Gandhi on important PMO decisions.
"The book written by the former media adviser is an attempt to misuse a privileged position and access to high office to gain credibility and to apparently exploit it for commercial gain. The commentary smacks of fiction and coloured views of a former adviser," the PMO statement said.
The statement reiterated that "the question about comments of the former media advisor was raised by senior editors when they met the Prime Minister in October last year. His answer was "- Do not believe all he is saying".
The PMO statement came amidst strong attack by the Opposition on Mrs Gandhi and the Prime Minister, using the claims by Mr Baru.
Mr Baru today claimed that the book is "very balanced" and also highlighted the achievements of UPA but said the media has only focussed on the criticism in it.
"I have said in my introduction that the book says both good and critical things," he said.
"More than 50 per cent of the book records the facts where he took decisions where he showed resolve... this was a PM who did a lot and the book records that," he added.
Senior BJP leaders including L K Advani and Arun Jaitley attacked ruling Congress and Dr Singh over the book, saying it is a confirmation of what the world already knew that he is a "weak" PM and Mrs Gandhi had the last word in government matters.
In his book, Mr Baru has written, "Pulok, who was inducted into the Manmohan Singh PMO at the behest of Sonia Gandhi, had regular, almost daily, meetings with Sonia at which he was said to brief her on the key policy issues of the day and seek her instructions on important files to be cleared by the PM.
"Indeed, Pulok was the single most point of regular contact between PM and Sonia. He was also the PMO's main point of contact with the NAC, a high profile advisory body chaired by Sonia Gandhi, with social activists as members. It was sometimes dubbed the shadow cabinet."
As the observations created a flutter, Mr Baru said, "It was not a secret." He said it was well-known that Mr Chatterjee was Sonia Gandhi's Secretary when she was the Leader of Opposition and had also worked with the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation chaired by her.
"He was very much part of the family ... I was not witness to it, whether she physically saw the files. I knew she was consulted on issues and he was taking her concurrence," said Mr Baru, who had resigned from the PMO in 2008 while Mr Chatterjee joined it in 2011.