Remember that dumb book Sanjay Baru wrote about his time as my media advisor? Yeah, it’s a movie now. And Anupam Kher is playing me. I am livid about the movie but that is a little flattering. Narendar got Vivek Oberoi – the poor man’s Vivek Oberoi – and I got Anupam Kher, our greatest living actor. He did play a reasonable person in public for so many decades. That must have taken extraordinary talent!
Akshaye Khanna is playing Sanjay Baru. Khanna as Baru breaks the fourth wall to say supposedly profound things with a smug face, while he regales us with one-sided wisecracks that wouldn’t have been funny even on paper. Pity Khanna didn’t kill a puppy in the first scene or his cheap imitation of Frank Underwood would have been complete.
One of the things that Sanjay Baru has implied in his book is that he discussed all the important events of the prime ministership with me and gave me advice. He even claimed credit for my ascension as prime minister. Apparently, he had written an editorial in 1999 in the Indian Express’ financial supplement calling for me to be made prime minister. Thanks, Baru. Nobody had any idea that Sonia Gandhi got her political advice in 2004 from the least-read supplement of India’s fourth-most-read English-language paper from five years ago.
Let me tell you about how smart Sanjay Baru is. Remember when I was on a trip to America and Rahul Gandhi held a press conference to tear a page? Yeah, Baru’s public advice to me at that time was to resign my post while still in America. That’s such good counsel. Why not embarrass the country in the middle of an important overseas tour? Why not abandon something that I’d spent my entire term working towards? I have no idea what I’d have done without such a wise consigliore.
‘Me vs Modi’
The BJP isn’t even pretending that they had nothing to do with this movie. They’re promoting it everywhere. Someone tell Narendar to stop trying to cash in on my popularity. It’s not going to work, my man. Everyone loves me again because of you. Thanks to your disastrous reign, they remember that crazy garbage fire we called UPA 2 with fond memories. The more they see you in action, the more they miss me.
You see, dear Narendar, whatever my faults, at least I didn’t subvert every constitutional institution, turn Parliament into a rubber stamp and sow seeds of mistrust among various communities. I didn’t even go to Pakistan, let alone uninvited and without getting anything in return. Neither did I turn into a human Trojan horse and let the enemy inside the gates of the citadel itself. Nor did I douse the ember of a burgeoning economy along with the hopes and dreams of millions of people with an idea so bad no sane economist would endorse it. So yeah, good luck trying to make everyone forget all that with a badly made movie.
Both Baru and Kher have justified their portrayal of me by saying that they are doing it for me. That they’re not doing it for commercial or personal gain. But out of their wish to give me a voice. What a load of crap! Thanks, but no thanks.
I find this insistence on treating me like a victim quite infuriating. Like I’m some sort of dupe who just goes along with things. For your kind information, I am not a fool whom other people can easily manipulate. I am not someone who has no ownership of my own decisions. I am not devoid of any agency.
Do you know what I had to go through to become prime minister? I had to sit by while my late friend Karunanidhi read me some of his unpublished erotic poems. Imagine how embarrassing the whole thing was to a guy whose idea of foreplay is getting married. I had to have many harrowing lunches with Sharad Pawar and Pranab Mukherjee – three people at one table sharing a meal while having no common language to communicate with each other. It was the most Kafkaesque experience of my life. We couldn’t even decide on what to order.
I had to make nice with Prakash Karat and Mamata Banerjee. Do you know how hard that is? Prakash Karat has the charisma of a stale box of muesli. The only time I saw him smiling was when Sitaram Yechury slipped on a rug inside my office. And have you ever tried talking with Ms Banerjee? One time during a meeting in which we were supposed to discuss a pre-poll alliance, she started naming each and every individual who had ever wronged her along with a detailed explanation about why each of them was a Maoist. That’s four hours of my life that I’ll never get back.
And then there were my “talks” with Rahul. I had to develop a working relationship with him. Sonia I could relate to, but Rahul? It was torture. You don’t know what hell is until you’ve sat through a two hour TED-talk about disrupting India’s political paradigm. By the time it ended, I was so numb that I had to scald my hand with a hot cup of tea just to be able to feel something. My only take-away from that presentation was to make a note to never take seriously the opinion of anyone who uses the words disrupt, synergy, and the phrase Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the same long sentence.
So yes, I did what I had to do to stay in power. I had to make deals with my coalition partners and deliver on their demands. I looked the other way when their representatives were committing harakiri. Would there be things I would do differently if I could go back? Of course! To quote my dear friend George W Bush, mistakes were made. However, I got to put my mark on this great country. I got to improve some lives for the better. Secure a future for millions of people. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.
The decision to accept the prime minister’s post was mine. The decision to stay on was mine. The decision to bear all that humiliation sent my way and still run the country with what I thought was a steady hand was mine. No one talked me into it.
Many people ask me, why don’t I write my tell-all memoir. There is a good reason for it. I have enjoyed some of the important positions of power in this country. Except one. And I want to add that to my resume too.
And when I do, they will call me The Accidental President.