“India After Gandhi” — more notes

Now into the 90s…

— Liked the fact that the author has done very little “writing” of his own. It’s more of a compiling/editing job deciding which topic to present next, how much importance it needs and when to move ahead. As for the content, he mostly presents it from referenced material (the references are massive, close to a 100 pages I guess) from that time and lets us form our own opinions. And in spite of all this, it keeps moving forward without getting boring. Awesome job!

— During the 50s the quality of the politicians and their acumen seems simply amazing. Even in a poor country they were well educated with a clear idea of what they were talking about…it was like seasoned architects arguing about the design of a module. Since the 70s the decline starts. The previous generation gave way for a set of rookies with the sole aim of power. They had a whole different India to deal with. The divide is sharp. After Shastri’s death Indira Gandhi takes over and then she starts asserting herself in ways unimaginable in the 50s! Everything that’s wrong (or even right) with Indian politics can be traced to that point. Nuclear capability, a better equipped army all fall-outs from her patriotism and realization that India needs to be strong. Corruption, shameless greed for power, undemocratic functioning with states, everything starts with her and her absolute dislike for voices of dissent and a gaddi-at-all-costs attitude. It is unbelievable that state governments were dismissed at will on change of power!

— The emergency seems to be a very interesting period raising questions about the suitability of democracy to India. While at one end it saw blatant autocracy bordering on dictatorship, it also saw smooth functioning in every sphere of public life to the extent where the common man actually found it comfortable, with no strikes or bandhs to hamper life. Almost like driving on Bangalore roads on days when auto drivers go on strike.

— The 90s being more contemporary history, the style of narration changes. More like taking a topic and covering it from the 90s till now. There is less focus on the political changes taking place and the passage of power between different parties. It is a bit difficult to get used to, considering the way the book flows till 1989. Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination itself is little more than a footnote attracting less than one paragraph. Delightfully, Deve Gowda’s name hasn’t even found mention with just a passing statement that a coterie of parties came together and strung up coalitions that lasted less than 2 years. While the previous 3 decades were dominated by personalities like Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, there is more of events and their unfolding in the 90s onwards with less emphasis on PMs.

— Babri Masjid finds good coverage, and the author’s views and anger over it do flow into the narrative. But he himself warns in the beginning that its possible, as the period after the 90s being reasonably contemporary and still fresh in memory there might be places where his views find expression.

All in all, loving it and looking forward to finishing it!


4 thoughts on ““India After Gandhi” — more notes

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