|Pulok Chatterji (right) with Manmohan Singh|
joint secretary monitoring the implementation of National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP), which was a set of joint objectives of the then coalition government. Chatterji drew his power, and that applies even today, from his proximity to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. He has always been the PMO’s link with 10 Janpath, the official residence of Mrs Gandhi.
Those are known facts in the corridor. But how come former PMO insider Baru says Chatterji has leftist leanings? Baru claims that whenever Chatterji had no meetings, he would prefer to be confined to his room in the South Block, rarely traveling outside Delhi. “During my time in the PMO, the only occasion on which I found him keen on accompanying the PM was when Dr Singh went to Cuba,” Baru says. By the way, Cuba, the island nation in the Caribbean, has been steadfastly following leftist ideology when capitalism has demolished Marxism in many parts of the world.
But Baru goes on to say something more. “With leftist leanings, Pulok was never too enthusiastic about Dr Singh’s focus on improving relations with the US,” he says in his book.
In fact, Chatterji was appointed as executive director of the World Bank and got shifted to Washington DC at the fag end of the UPA-I, only to be returned as principal secretary to PM in the middle of UPA-II.
Meanwhile, PMO reacted sharply to Baru's book saying that it is an “attempt to misuse a privileged position and access to high office to gain credibility to apparently exploit it for commercial gain.”
Significantly, Baru’s book narrates the leftist past of PM’s current adviser and the then principal secretary to PM TKA Nair too. Nair was a member of the CPI (M)’s Students Federation of India (SFI) during his student days in Kerala, the book says. Baru further claims, Nair revived those leftist ties by becoming close to senior CPI (M) leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet who hailed from Punjab, Nair’s cadre in IAS. “Proximity to Surjeet served Nair well, earning him a place in Gujral’s PMO”, as Gujral and Surjeet, both Punjabis, were close friends too. The book further claims that in UPA-I, Nair used his association with Surjeet and CPI (M) leader from Kerala SR Pillai, to help Manmohan Singh manage the Left. For the record, the Left support was crucial for the very survival of Singh-led UPA-I government.