New Delhi: Rare is the successful public figure who doesn’t pen a book. Barack Obama has done it, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has done it. As have several others across the globe. Most books written by politicians follow a formula—they are either an autobiography or a book tracing their journey and growth while linking it to the growth of a nation or a political movement. Most of them are written when the person is no longer in office. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is charting a different course.

He is gearing up to write a book this year and far from a bildungsroman, it is a sort of self-help book for students. “It will cover many aspects that students can relate to, especially with regard to the crucial Class X and Class XII examinations. Through the book the prime minister hopes to become a friend to the students…," says a note released by Penguin Random House India, which is publishing the book.

The idea for the book took root in the prime minister’s mind after his address in January this year during which he spoke about exams being a “time of pleasure not pressure." From weight of expectations to tips about preparation, Modi had a view on it all during that address. The talk was a big hit, and Modi decided to pen a book on the same theme. “I have chosen to write on a subject that is close to my heart and one that is fundamental to my vision for a youth driven and youth led tomorrow," Modi said in the note.

The book marks yet another attempt by the prime minister to mould his image in different ways, all of which reinforce the image of a leader working for the nation. From a whirlwind international diplomacy tour to midnight Parliament sessions to pass tax reforms to penning tips on how to deal with exam pressure, he is a man on a mission. “All of these are different threads that form a part of the man’s image, from international statesman to a strong leader at home to the provider, the kindly avuncular politician who confers wisdom to his people," says Santosh Desai, CEO of Future Brands Ltd. Indeed, the third part of this persona is the one that gets reinforced through his Mann Ki Baat radio addresses, which have mostly been apolitical. The topics that he picks up for his monthly radio address play a major role in convincing people that he has their interests at heart. “(These are) Concerns he needn’t have. (But he has them) Which is why people were willing to trust demonetization. They felt that he understood their frustration vis-a-vis black money and corruption and even if the move caused them discomfort, they were willing to see through it," says Desai.

Image building aside, suicides among young people, particularly because of the pressure of examinations, is a concern in India. According to data available from the National Crime Records Bureau, 8,934 students committed suicide in India in 2015. India also has one of the highest suicide rates in the world for people in the 15-29 age group, according to a 2012 Lancet report. The prime minister’s book is not going to make this problem go away but it does acknowledge the worries and fears of a growing demographic. “For the aspiring middle class there is no greater casualty than exams. The whole idea of playing an agony aunt is a part of Modi’s image building. It conveys a sense of concern," says sociologist Shiv Vishvanathan.

Should the Prime Minister of India get ready to add yet another feather, this time of best-selling author to his hat?

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