Former US President Barack Obama’s memoir The Promised Land has created flutter all over the world including India for its description of world leaders and their antiques. In India, the book caused a huge uproar over Obama’s uncharitable statement about former Indian National Congress (INC) president Rahul Gandhi.
A new excerpt from the memoir says that Sonia Gandhi chose Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister of India in 2004 ― after the INC had won a few more seats than the BJP but it gained numbers through a newly forged post-poll United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ― as he posed no threat to Rahul Gandhi.
Obama: Manmohan Singh posed no threat to her 40-year-old son
“… More than one political observer believed that she’d (Sonia Gandhi) had chosen Singh precisely because as an elderly Sikh with no national political base, he posed no threat to her forty-year-old son, Rahul, whom she was grooming to take over the INC Party,” wrote Obama.
The former US President said that Singh’s reluctance to retaliate against Pakistan after gunmen attacked the financial capital Mumbai proved costly for him politically. “This restraint had cost him politically,” Obama wrote.
The former US president recalled that Manmohan Singh had told him that the call of religious and ethnic solidarity could be intoxicating in uncertain times. Singh had reportedly told Obama it was not so hard for politicians to exploit that ― in India or anywhere else.
‘Sonia’s power attributable to a shrewd and forceful intelligence’
Describing Singh as the “chief architect of India’s economic transformation” and “wise, thoughtful, and scrupulously honest”, Obama remembered him as a “self-effacing technocrat who’d won the people’s trust not by appealing to their passions but bringing about higher living standards and maintaining a well-earned reputation for not being corrupt.”
Talking about Sonia Gandhi, he called her “a striking woman in her sixties, dressed in a traditional sari, with dark, probing eyes and a quiet, regal presence”.
At the dinner hosted in the honour of the US President, Obama recalled, Sonia Gandhi “listened more than she spoke” and was “careful to defer to Singh when policy matters came up and often steered the conversation toward her son”.
“It became clear to me, though, that her power was attributable to a shrewd and forceful intelligence,” the former US president wrote.