Author and award-winning journalist Ramesh Menon cannot imagine life without writing. In city to be a part of PLF 2014, he talks to Aneesha Bedi about his latest book ‘Modi Demystified- The Making of a Prime Minister’ and more.
It is a tribute to the commitment of the intelligentsia that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attracted serious attention from analysts. Your latest book is a part of this trend, offering a rather clinical analysis of the most controversial leader in recent times. Why, a book, on Modi, per se?
It was actually by accident. It was when Harper Collins got in touch with me and asked me to write a book on Narendra Modi. While I felt unsure initially, the publishing house insisted that I go ahead and write the book. Having been a state correspondent of India Today in Gujarat, I had a fair understanding of Modi’s journey during his formative years- his transition from a tea vendor to a politician- and could analyse his RSS way of thinking to what made him the chief minister of Gujarat.
So, how is ‘Demystified Modi- The Making of a Prime Minister’ different from Modi’s other biographies?
The fact that it is rooted in personal experience. My eight-year stint as a journalist helped me gain a detailed understanding of things and of course, then there are contacts that you make when you’re in this profession. Fortunately, many people willingly shared their perspectives and I also gathered data from the government so as to make sure I don’t get figures wrong. Interestingly, while I spoke to various retired bureaucrats, none of them wanted to be quoted for the fear of being named. The book is divided into three sections- Early Years, Brand Modi and Journey to the Top. Besides, the book establishes, ‘trade matters to Gujaratis’ but more to the point, ‘while Gujarat was rapidly modernising, the old caste and religious differences were being put to use in new ways.’Also, I’ve not drawn any conclusions from the narrative, leaving the “facts” to speak for themselves. I’ve used a lot of anecdotes to describe the same.
Speaking of facts and the controversial 2014 Lok Sabha elections, do you agree that we choose our political leaders based on casteor religion or sex?
Very much so. Indians vote on the basis of caste and communities and hence we lose out on some very good candidates. Let’s face it, we are not a secular nation.
Is Modi a result of the same, in your opinion?
It was Congress’s failure that paved the way for Modi becoming prime minister. It was the ‘no alternative’ syndrome that drove people to vote for change. So, if you ask me, I would say it is a combination of this along with voting on basis of caste and community that led to Modi’s victory. After all, he is the most choreographed Prime Minister our country has ever had, right from his sense of dressing, to his diction, to the way he moves his hands. He has astute PR persons around him.
And lastly, do you think lit fests offer a significant platform for such books, which are meant for a particular kind of audience?
Literary festivals encourage communication at a more personal level with the audience and hence they are a great platform to talk about your books. Having said that, I have no qualms in admitting the fact that I have selfish reasons for attending them as I get to meet various other authors who make me realise that I am not a loner. When you write a book like the one I have, one tends to feel lonely but these fests have made me realise there are so many like-minded individuals.