Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay
This book came before 2014, then Narendra Modi was a Prime ministerial candidate and not the prime minister. This was the time when people especially outside his home state, were curious about Narendra Modi. And curiosity was at its peak – in the middle of all the euphoria that Modi and his party created around him. Quite a few of his biographies were written around this time. This is an unauthorized biography written by a staunch critic. Though the author met the protagonist many times for writing this book. Nilanjan has been writing about RSS, Hindutva, and Modi for many years. So I assume writing this book may have been a long compilation for him. And you get a sense of that when you read the book.
If this is the first biography you are reading of Narendra Modi, you get a fair amount of insights into his background. Like his growing up years, his joining the RSS and rising up in the ranks there. His work during the emergency, his joining the BJP and working with stalwarts during their Rath Yatras. Managing the elections and party for many North Indian states based in Chandigarh. And his role in the state of Gujarat as its many time Chief Minister.
You know how Narendra Modi has worked through the ranks to reach where he is – when you read that he started by cleaning and serving tea in the RSS office. You know he delivers results when you see his travels around for writing reports. Or the election alliances that he pulled up for his party. There is a scrutiny of the most well known time of Modi’s career the 2002 Godhra and post – Godhra riots.
The author spends a lot of time to justify that he has been a critic of Narendra Modi. But for this biography, he would be neutral. He re-enforces my belief that it is impossible to get rid of your biases. His biases show through each and every evaluation of the man. He picks up all possible sources to quote what he has done is not adequate. On his becoming the chief minister he says ‘From being his proverbial ringmaster of the neighborhood circus, Modi was on his way to becoming a lead Trapeze artist’. He repeatedly calls Gujarat the Hindutva lab of RSS and BJP. The author downplays Modi’s many achievements. Achievements which people cannot argue about. Or at least he gives a vicious twist to it.
In a lighter chapter, he talks about the dressing style and goes into this particular detail quite a bit. Right from the colors, Narendra Modi likes to wear, to the number of details he gives to his tailors. What kind of clothes he chooses for which occasions.
The author seems to be too enamored by his subject’s style as he visits his tailors (now called fashion designers) and gets himself a Modi Kurta and takes the details like how much does his chest actually measure – taking a dig on his quote of the 56-inch chest in an election rally.
The author writes a lot of political history in the book. At times I got lost wondering what it had to do in a person’s biography. The author spends a lot of ink on the history of RSS and BJP. And the formation of the state of Gujarat that is not really relevant to the biography. What is important is the relationship that Narendra Modi shared with these organizations. And the people who were leading it and played a role in the rise of Narendra Modi.
It’s a mixed bag. Read it for the backdrop of Narendra Modi, but avoid the overdose of critical analysis.