If biographies could win elections, Narendra Modi would win the race to 7, Race Course Road, hands down.
This poll season, apart from the media, Modi has emerged as the toast of publishing houses. Over two dozen books in English, Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil and Malayalam on the life, times and ideas of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate have hit the market in the past two months. A few more are slated to be released in the coming weeks before the elections.
Authors from varied backgrounds have taken up Modi as their subject. This includes political analysts, lawyers, RTI activists, journalists and some foreign writers and academicians.
Prabhat Prakashan, a well-known Delhi-based Hindi publisher, has released as many as seven books on Modi, including a graphic novel, in the past one month.
“Modi is a good business proposition; there is a huge demand for books on Modi, thanks to the enormous hype surrounding him. A lot of people believe that he is all set to become the next PM, and they are hungry for information about him,” says Piyush Kumar, director, Prabhat Prakashan.
“Our graphic novel on Modi, titled Bhavishya Ki Asha, Narendra Modi, is aimed at children, and it’s selling pretty well.”
Not all of these volumes on Modi are straight biographies. Some, in fact, defy genres. While some claim to demystify Modi, others seek to explain ‘Moditva’.
Barring a few, most books are essentially hagiographies. Apart from the gushing title, the blurb on the back cover of journalist Arun Anand’s book on Modi, ‘NaMo Vani: Narendra Modi Ke Ojaswi Vichar’, describes Modi as a man with a multi-faceted personality, a successful administrator, an intellectual, an effective writer, an astute politician and even a social reformer.
But Anand prefers to call it a critical exploration of the BJP leader’s viewpoint on issues such as riots, curfew, dynastic politics, etc. “After elections, it will serve as a ready-reference for his position on various issues and his actual performance,” said Anand. Among the several books on Modi, released recently, are ‘Narendra Modi, The Game Changer’, by Journalist Sudesh Verma; ‘Moditva: The idea behind the man’ by Siddharth Mazumdar, ‘CM TO PM: Narendra Modi’, co-authored by advocate and well-known RTI activist Narendra Garg.
So, does Garg already see Modi as the PM? “I believe he is almost there. Our book highlights his record as Gujarat CM and his vision to take the country forward as PM,” said Garg.
While the BJP may not a have a chance of winning a single seat in states such as Tamil Nadu, Tamil publishers have brought out quite a few biographies on Modi -- not translations but originally written in Tamil. “In the past, we have published biographies of successful entrepreneurs, scientists, and sportsmen. When our editorial team came up with the idea of political biographies, we decided to start off with NaMo,” said Karthikeyan Pugalendi, vice-president, Sixthsense Publications, which has published the book ‘Narendra Modi’, in Tamil.
“There is a lot of curiosity about Modi in Tamil Nadu. But unlike other books on Modi in Tamil language, which are either against or for Modi, ours is a very objective biography and has received favourable reviews in the Tamil press. The sales picked up after Modi’s visit to Tamil Nadu in February,” said Karthikeyan.
Writing a political biography often involves the literary and historical challenge of avoiding hagiography and the hatchet work. “There is a growing interest in non-fiction writing, including political biographies. But most of these books seem to have been written to cash on the buzz surrounding Narendra Modi; the idea, it seems, is to please him. I tried to explore the middle path, I do not believe in official or authorised biographies,” said senior journalist, Nilajan Mukhopadhyay, the author of ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times’, published last year.
Its paperback edition has been recently released. Writing a political biography could be a tricky business. “Initially, he (Modi) was very cooperative and I did several rounds of interviews with him, both on the phone and in person. But after one point he stopped talking to me. In fact, he didn’t speak even after the book was published,” said Mukhopadhyay.
The forthcoming books on Modi include ‘Modi Demystified’, by journalist Ramesh Menon, and ‘Narendra Modi: A Political Biography’ by Andy Marino, British author and filmmaker.