Home / Opinion / Online-views /  Narendra Modi: Dominating headlines and bookshelves

In these days of instant “news" gratification, the plethora of books on Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t cease to amaze. Is there anything that a book can contain that hasn’t been written about already?

Since the 2002 riots in Gujarat, during his tenure as the state’s chief minister, and in his recent political leap to New Delhi, Modi has generated intense black-and-white emotions among voters. With the result that few Indian publishers’ lists in these past five years or so were seen to be complete without a title or two dedicated to Modi.

There have been hagiographies and biographies, foreign correspondents’ breezy accounts, narratives that seem to read more like fan fiction, children’s books that deify Modi, even management books selling Modi leadership lessons. Besides, of course, Modi’s own published short stories, poetry and leadership lessons. To complete the larger story are Amrita Shah’s recently released profile of a city, Ahmedabad: A City in the World, as well as strident journalist Poornima Joshi’s Modi’s Man: The Rise and Rise of Amit Shah, due out in August. Largely, the authors fail to fully disguise where they stand vis-à-vis Modi, even when there is a stated view to write an objective narrative.

So, this is a list that definitely needs readers to have their antennas up at all times. Here are a few among the many books on Modi:

2014: The Election That Changed India by Rajdeep Sardesai (Penguin): This has been re-issued to mark Modi’s one year in Delhi, with the inclusion of a fresh epilogue. Sardesai has a noisy TV journalist’s love of melodramatic phrases such as “political tsunami" and the 129-year-old Congress party being “decimated" as well as of the great Indian tamasha called elections. But his anecdote-rich style of writing, and quotes from personal conversations with political leaders, including Modi, makes it an engaging read of an episode that we know all too well, especially since we have only just lived through it. Note that the epilogue updates copy by writing of the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) splendid victory in the Delhi elections.

The Modi Effect—Inside Narendra Modi’s Campaign to Transform India by Lance Price (Hodder & Stoughton): The former BBC political correspondent just couldn’t resist the story of a man who has been both demonized and deified in his country and abroad. Price is at great pains to explain that he is a liberal kind of guy, and one must love the easy manner in which he inwardly dismisses some of Modi’s remarks during his interviews with him with an “oh come off it". His narrative of last year’s technology-driven election blitzkrieg is a breeze, but this “outsider’s" perspective doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

Raja Mohan’s book Modi’s Worldis a startlingly unemotional narrative.
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Raja Mohan’s book Modi’s Worldis a startlingly unemotional narrative.

War Room: The People, Tactics And Technology Behind Narendra Modi’s 2014 Win by Ullekh N.P. (Roli Books): As with the previous two books, the title is a giveaway of the book’s contents. Journalist Ullekh NP, though, is slightly more starry-eyed when it comes to “Candidate Modi", whom he describes as a “stylish, masculine, aggressive and unrelenting" man who has “dazzled voters" and is seen by some as “a messiah under whose leadership India would forge ahead to glory and superpower status".

Modi’s World: Expanding India’s Sphere of Influence by C. Raja Mohan (HarperCollins): Here is one startlingly unemotional narrative. Based on the author’s columns for The Indian Express, C. Raja Mohan book, which will be published shortly, is congratulatory of Modi’s diplomatic efforts so far, and is forward-looking in its examination of what this could mean for the nation, both economically and strategically.

The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra by Manoj Mitta (HarperCollins): Well-regarded for his coverage of legal issues, Manoj Mitta methodically takes apart the conclusions of the special investigating team (SIT) that exonerated Modi of guilt in the 2002 riots, highlighting some alleged omissions in its inquiry.

Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay (Westland): If there’s one of the “older" Modi books one can go back to, it is this 2013 official-turned-non-official biography of a state chief minister with the ambition and drive to become the nation’s prime minister.

Bhavishya Ki Asha: Narendra Modi (Prabhat Prakashan) and Bal Narendra (Rannade Prakashan): At the end of it all, for sceptical, amused eyes only, these stories—both in comic book form evocative of the “ideal boy" posters of old—aimed at convincing children of Modi’s courage, heroism, and moral fibre.

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