Books

In poll time, books aim to form informed political opinions

As the world's largest democracy gears up for the general election, political parties are literally promising the moon. Amid this extensive wooing, a few books have done honest postmortems of Indian governance, highlighted grievances of people in a perceived corrupt polity and urged citizens to ask questions to form "informed opinions" before going to vote.

Mar 27, 2014
Shilpa Raina
 
As the world's largest democracy gears up for the general election, political parties are literally promising the moon. Amid this extensive wooing, a few books have done honest postmortems of Indian governance, highlighted grievances of people in a perceived corrupt polity and urged citizens to ask questions to form "informed opinions" before going to vote.
 
Even though most of the publishing houses are following their normal schedule in a year when 815 million citizens are eligible to vote during a month-long mammoth election journey that will begin April 7 and conclude May 12, some of these "election-centric-issue-based" books have hit bookshelves. They are centred around the theme of politics, corruption, game changer middle class and urban issues.
 
There are more than a dozen books that have come out before the elections, and a few will be launched around election time. Most have one message: Forming "informed choices" before casting the invaluable ballot.
 
Hindol Sengupta, author of "100 Things to Know and Debate Before You Vote"(HarperCollins), highlights 100 issues that our country is battling with and people of the country ought to know them before they cast their ballot.
 
"I personally feel this is an issue-devoid election where political parties are busy taking pot shots at each other and digging each others' past. No one is actually focussing on the issues that are marring the country and economy," Sengupta told IANS.
 
"There are issues like air pollution, health, law and order, women safety, sanitation among many other things that should have been the priority of these leaders while campaigning. Their manifestos are jokes written for no one to read," he added.
 
Doing a postmortem of Indian governance is Madhav Godbole in "Good Governance: Never on India's Radar"(Rupa)- a brutally honest take on problems plaguing Indian politics since Independence.
 
"India's poor performance in governance is largely due to the democratic system of governance as practised in India," Godbole has written in the book.
 
Godbole, who has previously written "India's Parliamentary Democracy on Trial"(Rupa) and "The Judiciary and Governance in India"(Rupa), has step-by-step talked of issues like crony capitalism, corruption, communal and ethnic violence, institutional integrity and freedom of expression, and how changes in policies can make a marked difference to governance in our country.
 
Books like Sandip Sen's "Neta, Babu and Subsidy: Roundup 2000 to 2014"(Vitasta) , Sumantra Bose's "Transforming India"(Picador India), Simon Denver's "Rogue Elephant: Harnessing the Power of India's Unruly Democracy"(Bloomsbury), and Isher Judge Ahluwalia's "Transforming Our Cities: Postcards of Change"(Harper Collins) have already hit the market in the past two months.
 
Another book John Elliots "Implosion"(Harper Collins) explores the impact of liberalisation, traces the build-up of social unrest over corruption, and exploitation of land and the poor. It also explains how democracy provides a smokescreen for much that is wrong with India.
 
The journalist-turned-author Elliot said the need to highlight these issues in the book was to show how over many decades, India has been incapable of using resources and manpower in its favour.
 
"India has such enormous potential with clever brainy people who are capable of all kinds of technological and entrepreneurial excellence. There are also abundant natural resources and once-respected political, legal and other systems. So India should be far more successful that it is," Elliot, told IANS.
 
New Delhi-based Elliot has been covering India for over two decades for many newspapers, and has keenly observed the Indian political system and its shortcomings, that, at times, have left him frustrated.
 
As he talks about "jugaad" and "inevitable chalta hai" attitude of Indians in his book, he strongly feels if people want to change the ways of the country, they should vote for the party.
 
"If they (people) hope that the candidate will help them locally, then vote for the candidate most likely to deliver - this is the argument that Nandan Nilekani is using as a Congress candidate in Bangalore to encourage people to vote for him when Congress is bound to lose nationally," he said.
 
"But if they want to change the way the country is run, then vote for the party," he added.
 
And in this myriad heavy-dose political analysis, comes Shaili Chopra's "The Big Connect" (Random House) that traces the advent of social media in India and how politics and lobbying has now shifted to the virtual floor, pushing many politicians to chat with people of the country, and advertise their vision and policies freely on many social-networking sites.
 
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at shilpa.r@ians.in)
 
Indo-Asian News Service
 

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