“Modi the Challenge of 2024”: Book review by SK Misra

A very fascinating narrative of contemporary Indian politics by a well-known journalist, Minhaz Merchant who has no personal axe to grind. He gives credit where credit is due, particularly to Modi around whom the book revolves. His credit to Modi may seem excessive but in fairness to him it is well deserved. He has highlighted his achievements particularly in Foreign Affairs, economy, welfare measures, climate change, smart cities etc.

His critics may have other views, but on the other hand, Minhaz is very critical of some of Modi’s policies and severely lambasts his polarisation politics and public display of religion. He also points out areas which have been neglected by Modi, such as Police reforms, governance at the municipal level, particularly in the smart cities; health care, and taxation issues; on his refusal to interact with the press; his concentration of power.

On the MOGHUL Rulers, who the BJP supporters refuse to acknowledge as Indian

“The powerful Moghul Empire was so integrated into India’s secular ethos that in the 17th century it cut its umbilical cord with the Ottoman Caliphate to which the other Islamic Sultanate paid tribute.”

On secularism

“After partition, Jawaharlal Nehru recognised that the knife the British had driven through Indian secularism wounding it deeply, could only be healed by leaning the other way; giving Muslims who had chosen to stay on in India the confidence that they would be treated fairly. His intent was noble. In practice it began India’s journey down the slippery slope of faux secularism. When you lean towards one faith, however, pure your intent, you will lean away from another. For the next 50 years India practised secularism in name”.

On dynastic politics, Nehru again comes under fire

Jawaharlal Nehru, an unflinching democrat in public, appeared to be a closet dynast in private. He appointed his 42 year-old daughter Indira, President of the Congress in 1959. While Nehru took the first step to introduce dynasty in India, Indira Gandhi cast it in stone”.

On the plight of the Muslims

“Most Indian Muslims continue to live in abject poverty. They remain under represented in the IAS, in business, in startups, law, medicine, accountancy, management and engineering. Politicians give them sermons, not jobs – the token Muslim is lionised from business to literature – but the average Muslim languishes in his 76-year-old ghetto. It is from such ghettos that raw recruits to terrorist groups are most easily lured.

On 2024 elections his view is that Modi is most likely to get a third term though in the run up to the elections he seems vulnerable.

This however, is not likely because of his pro-poor policies, lack of cohesion in the opposition and absence of a well-defined alternate credible programme. His one big asset is Rahul Gandhi.

On Partition, he disagrees with the general view that partition should have been avoided.

Partition brought unimaginable suffering to Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and others. But what was the alternative? An undivided India with a 35% Muslim population at birth including those in West Pakistan and East Pakistan? Unending civil strife could have resulted. That could have been a mortal wound festering in a new nation”.

It may be mentioned that Sardar Patel came to the same conclusion after seeing how Liaquat Ali Khan of the Muslim League in the interim Government headed by Nehru was able to block all progressive measures proposed by the Congress.

One may not agree with his analysis on some issues, but his views cannot be brushed aside, I certainly enjoyed the book.


SK Misra is former IAS senior officer, former principal secretary to PM Chandrashekhar, and presently chairman, ITRHD ( Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development).



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