HT Picks: The Most Interesting Books of the Week
This week’s good reads include a book on Elections 2019, another that’s a plea against capital punishment, and a volume on how we are becoming vulnerable to digital platformsUpdated: Mar 15, 2019 15:40 IST
THE VERDICT BY PRANNOY ROY AND DORAB R SOPARIWALA
What are the key factors that win or lose elections in India? What does, or does not, make India’s democracy tick? Is this the end of anti-incumbency? Are opinion polls and exit polls reliable? How pervasive is the ‘fear factor’? Does the Indian Woman’s vote matter? Does the selection of candidates impact results? Are elections becoming more democratic or less so? Can electronic voting machines (EVMs) be fiddled with? Can Indian elections be called ‘a jugaad system’?
Published on the eve of India’s next general elections, The Verdict uses rigorous psephology, original research and as-yet-undisclosed facts to talk about the entire span of India’s electoral history from the first elections in 1952. Crucially, for 2019, it provides pointers to look out for, to see if the incumbent government will win or lose.
Written by Prannoy Roy, renowned for his knack of demystifying electoral politics, and Dorab R Sopariwala, this book is compulsory reading for anyone interested in politics and elections in India.
DEMONS AND DEMIGODS BY APARNA JHA
The harshest punishment is reserved for the harshest crimes. Murderers, rapists, terrorists – perpetrators of grisly acts – these are the people on death row. The Supreme Court of India has repeatedly held that the death penalty can be awarded only in the rarest of rare cases, where guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt. Yet, who is to say what that may be? For witnesses can lie and evidence be tampered with. In a system that is imperfect, not all those found guilty are truly demons, nor those who pass the sentence demigods, flawless and beyond reproach.
In Demons and Demigods, Aparna Jha recounts how she successfully defended four death row inmates, and makes an impassioned argument against capital punishment. For an eye for an eye, she argues, can leave the whole world blind.
DEMOCRACY HACKED BY MARTIN MOORE
In the space of one election cycle, authoritarian governments, moneyed elites and fringe hackers figured out how to game elections, bypass democratic processes, and turn social networks into battlefields. Facebook, Google and Twitter – where our politics now takes place – have lost control and are struggling to claw it back.
Prepare for a new strain of democracy. A world of datafied citizens, real-time surveillance, enforced wellness and pre-crime. Where switching your mobile platform will have more impact on your life than switching your government. Where freedom and privacy are seen as incompatible with social wellbeing and compulsory transparency.
As our lives migrate online, we have become increasingly vulnerable to digital platforms founded on selling your attention to the highest bidder. Our laws don’t cover what is happening and our politicians don’t understand it. But if we don’t change the system now, we may not get another chance.
First Published: Mar 15, 2019 15:39 IST