Friday, August 26, 2011

Tells of 24 Akbar Road etc!

Book Review: 24Akbar Road
Author: Rasheed Kidwai
Format: Hardback/Non-fiction
Language: English
Pages: 295
Price: RS.495
Publishers: Hachette/2011
Even before writing this book, and earlier Sonia: A Biography, Rasheed's grip on Congress Party affairs was undoubtedly out of political reporter for years, he carried the best practices of journalism without using the mileage of political proximity. Such impartiality and presentation of truth is evident in most part of the book and that must be considered his big success. With my own high impression, I will consider this book an “essential read” for all those want to know India’s single most ruling party in multidimensional ways. Here, Rajdeep Sardesai’s rating of this book as “thriller” needs to be little more stretched in favour and shall be taken in proper light as the Rasheed’s 24 Akbar Road is out of sycophancy.

Until few years back, when Ramchandra Guha has written “India after Gandhi”, there was terrible shortage of documentation on modern India, especially on Indian democracy. Whatever we could remember before those were either stodgy writings in academic fashion or ran by views in fantasy…with little or no puts of social history, those works were hardly genuine in the historical narratives. Though 24Akbar Road naturally has leaning with political historiography, yet it delved substantially too with the socio-economic perspectives that gives readers insightful accounts of all important events in post-colonial India. Like, recalling the very crucial nationalization of banks and Coal Mines as “With the single stroke of pen, nationalized fourteen banks and Coal Mines”…beautifully narratives are at place, so are the abundancy of many hidden or less known history of Congress, and infact even about the many bungalows of Lutyns Zone, including of historical 7Jantar Mantar Road, which is an end past now for Congress.

As the existing Congress party represents more or less an unusual dualism in its action, so it’s praiseworthy, the way Rasheed has given good light where the proper works have been done by Indira Gandhi and Rajiv and defiance for the power mongers with akin to rose the rank either “by hook or crook”. Indian National Congress has indeed a unique characteristic of hierarchy which sharply cuts the topmost position for an outsider…sole exception of P.V.Narsimha Rao {Manmohan Singh is reluctantly at helm of affairs} was a conditional outcome of tragical spontaneity that arose out of Rajiv Gandhi’s unfortunate assassination in 1991. There were no other reasons, he could have Prime Minister without the sudden delinking of Gandhi family-when it reinstated, Mr. Rao was sidelined to the level of oblivion. His fall after Sonia’s arrival in politics and unjustified prominence of incapable and odd Sitaram Kesari will be remain a severe blot on the democratic credential of Congress party!

Unparalleled prerogatives of Nehru, grace in compatibility with the power of Indira, and modernism of Rajiv has covered lucidly. Book also tries well to capture the persona of Sanjay Gandhi in different way, it vehementally articulates its own views instead of chasing stereotypical conceptions, that’s more humane and real. Sanjay, as an impatient child of Indira had impacted negatively on Indian democracy…he grabbed the forefront of power with mother’s emotional breakdown in 1970’s. That was the result of her high shot intervention in international affairs, particularly in the birth of Bangladesh besides the fading strength of Congress in States. Rise of Communism and growing caliber of Socialist forces were other reasons that made her passed the baton informally in hand of Sanjay, who kept bad habits of less listening and reading even after that.

Finally with emergency, Congress shown an arbitrariness in political functioning that tolled it heavy losses, except South India
[South of Vindhya}, its position never remained so stable again. Premature death of Sanjay and conditional arrival of Rajiv shaped the further course of Congress…but in the meantime, Indira’s assassination followed by the avoidable communal clashes and bawdy display of personification from tier-II and tier-III leaders bought some murmur of leadership change but lasted soon. The bad personal maneuvering Pranab Mukherji was shunted under the charge of command that lost prominence he could retrieve only in 1991, after the Rajiv’s sad death. He displayed this time proper loyalty in favour of Sonia, and still doing so with greater say in party and government led by the Congress party.

Rasheed has succeeded to establish a broader outline, how Congress party has been moving over the years through many formative and deformative stages. He also did beautifully overtures with the internal nuances of Congress organisation, especially the detailed classification of party affiliates are worth of reckoning and besides also knowing how good or bad democracy exists within India’s largest political party. I will reprise again here, that historical narration is the best thing with this book, although a big missing has also emerges from the same section. In entire book, there is no mention of Congress high profile leader from Bihar, Lalit Narayan Mishra who spearheaded the party organisation in eastern/northern India besides also playing formidable role in establishing smooth rapport with Communist bloc during the Cold War era. Ambiguity of his death while serving as most effective Railway Minister should have also been taken into account as he remained unparalleled leader of Bihar after Shree Krishna Singh.

Name of his younger brother, Jagganath Mishra was among the five probables after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, but here too, there is no mention of that. Till then, Congress started catching decline in Bihar…defeat of Jagganath Mishra by the legendary Communist leader, Bhogendra Jha by substantial margin in 1991 Loksabha election from Madhubani marked the end of Congress party as functional power in Bihar. Anyway, Dr. Mishra continued as Rajya Sabha member with a plush Ministry of Rural Development, but his adventurous decision to lobby against Sonia Gandhi knocked him permanently irrelevant in Congress politics. Though two other dissent lobbyists, P.A.Sangama and Sharad Pawar is enjoying best time in power circle of UPA government. Lastly this book must be stacked in bookshelf of every serious readers with penchant for understanding Indian politics, I am sanguine about that and hoping it as starting of a new wave of political commentary.
Atul Kumar Thakur
August 26, 2011, Friday, New Delhi


  1. hi many thanks i think you were generous in reviewing my book but i must say it is the best piece i have read so far about 24, akbar road.



  2. Really a very focussed and comprehensive book review on 24Akbar Road..Ashutosh Thakur