A new book accuses Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of being weak and unable to stamp out corruption on his watch, the second recent attack by an insider that undermines the Congress party as it seeks re-election despite trailing in opinion polls.

PC Parakh retired as Coal Secretary in 2005. His book, released on Monday, called "Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and Other Truths" claims that the PM's inability to take on vested interests led to the scandal dubbed "Coal-Gate" in which ineligible firms were allegedly granted valuable coal licenses without a fair bidding process, costing the government hundreds of crores, according to the national auditor.

This is the second book in the last week to portray Dr Singh, prime minister since 2004, as a well-intentioned man of high personal integrity but one often unable to assert his authority.

The other, by Sanjaya Baru, a former media adviser to Singh, was greeted with glee by the BJP. The book, released on Friday, claims that the Prime Minister allowed his authority to be undermined by Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress party.

The BJP under prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is expected to emerge as the largest party in the election that ends on May 12, although surveys conducted before voting began last week suggest it is unlikely to win an outright majority and will need to form a coalition with other parties.

The Congress is headed for one of its weakest ever showings, the same polls showed.

In his book, Mr Parakh says that Dr Singh, though keen to introduce open bidding, could not tackle resistance from coal ministers in his administration. Mr  Parakh said he himself came under pressure from people interested in acquiring coal blocks.

"Pressures come in the form of enticements such as post-retirement assignments, partnership in business, bribery, blackmail or pure intimidation. Pressures also come from friends and relations," Mr Parakh writes in the book.

"Some can resist these pressures. Others succumb," he said, adding that at no time did the prime minister's office make recommendations or exert pressure in favor of any party.

The Congress said today that the book was a hatchet job. "It is all orchestrated. Narendra Modi's money is flowing in good measure these days," said party leader Digvijaya Singh.

The PM has consistently denied his government did anything wrong, blaming the delay in introducing competitive bidding on resistance from coal-rich states ruled by opposition parties.

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