'....question to ask, 'Who gave you the manuscript?' I told him I had enormous respect for him but I couldn't reveal my source. 'Surely you understand that?' I asked. End of conversation.
The conspiracy theorists began spinning bizarre tales. The excerpts, Caroline Lees reported in the Sunday Times (London), were seen as an attempt by Rao's spin doctors to 'repackage a dull prime minister. 'Those who know Rao as a politician,' she wrote, 'say he is so boring that audiences walk away in the middle of his speeches.' She believed, 'Far from being a public relations disaster, the leaking of the extracts appears to be a part of a campaign to restore the fortunes of Rao's ailing Congress (I) party. There is little doubt that Rao's racy novel has been a significant victory in the battle to repackage the leader.'
So, the leaking of the manuscript was part of a grand strategy? A front-page report in the Time of India added an additional twist. It quoted a PMO official saying, 'someone from the magazine approached the prime minister and he let them use the excerpts.' Another explanation, quoting another official, was reproduced in the same report. 'The Prime Minister was leaving on a two week long foreign tour on October 15. His publicity managers thought it a good idea to project a livelier side to his personality. The kind of attention the novel has got in the western world, including CNN and BBC leads credence to this.'
Meanwhile, Rao's political opponents within the party found the excerpts 'a golden opportunity'. K.K. Tewari, a Congress MP, described P.V. as a 'sex maniac'. Arjun Singh, another committed antagonist, ignored the sex maniac bit attacked Rao viciously for deviating from the policies and programmes of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
When asked for a reaction, my response was carefully banal. 'The novel represents another dimension of the prime......'
- Debolina Raja Gupta