Sunday, October 21, 2018

Book Review: Indira - India’s Most Powerful Prime Minister

There has been a lot of brouhaha in the press that current situations in India are comparable to the emergency years of 1970’s. A lot of debates, like those around right to privacy around Aadhaar, cross border surgical strikes, appointment of judges in apex court, and patriotism in an environment of mob lynchings end up in cries of increasing authoritarianism and rights of press being curbed. Intellectuals routinely associate above generalizations with the emergency era of India.
I’ve been curious for a while about the emergency and the polity of India before it, and so picking up a book about the person at the center of it all - Indira Gandhi - seemed the best option to learn more. For a contemporary reading, I picked up this book by Sagarika Ghose.
Important disclaimer: This book is a biography of Indira Gandhi, so naturally, it tries to paint a rosy picture of her achievements and choices, while shedding limited light on her shortcomings and failures. Also, the author has intermittently pushed in her own narrative sections that eulogize Mrs Gandhi - which make for a boring read because of their patronizing nature. Other than these two issues, the book makes for a good reading of the events in the mid 1960’s - mid 80’s
The book talks extensively about her multiple prime ministerial terms, and those of Morarji Desai, Nehru, and Shastri as well. It goes into details of emergency, and also sheds light on role of Sanjay Gandhi during emergency, and how he came to be. But as pointed by many, it is silent on many things like her nuclear agenda and establishment of RAW.
Overall, I think the book makes for an interesting read only if you are not aware of the topics before hand. The book would have made for a much better read if the author included more facts and happenings, and cut down on the eulogies that are injected throughout the book. But otherwise, the book provides very good outline to understand the events of the decades which overlapped with Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership. Overall Rating: 3/5

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