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September 24, 2017

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Ex-aide's book asserts India PM 'not in power'

NEW DELHI -- A tell-all book by an ex-aide to India's Premier Manmohan Singh depicting him as a powerless political puppet hit bookstores this weekend, stirring new controversy in the midst of a bitterly fought election.

The book, giving ammunition to opposition critics during the marathon vote that winds up May 12, paints a damning portrait of a premier who was in office — but "not in power" — while ruling Congress party president Sonia Gandhi called the shots.

Entitled "The Accidental Prime Minister — The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh," the book is by academic and journalist Sanjaya Baru, a former media advisor to the current prime minister, who left his post in 2008.

Traditionally, the leader of India's ruling party is also premier. But Gandhi, who led the campaigns that swept Congress to power in 2004 and again in 2009, turned down the job, fearing her Italian birth would become an explosive political issue as Hindu nationalists said her foreign origin made her unfit to rule India.

She handpicked Singh, known as a family loyalist, for the post but Baru said Gandhi's much hailed "renunciation of power" was more a "political tactic than a response to a higher calling."

Baru said Singh decided early on to "surrender" to Gandhi and quotes the premier as saying he had "to accept the party president (Gandhi) is the centre of power."

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