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HT Picks: The most interesting reads of the week

This week’s good reads include a book on the BJP, another by an acclaimed film maker, and a look at how history repeats itself

books Updated: Jun 22, 2018 19:08 IST
Saeed Mirza,BJP,history
Politics, essays and history; much food for thought this weekend. (HT Team)

SHADES OF SAFFRON; FROM VAJPAYEE TO MODI BY SABA NAQVI

284pp, Rs 599

The BJP enjoys the predominant position in Indian politics today. In its journey from coalition politics to single-party hegemony, it has emerged as a very different entity from the one that first came to power in 1998. Veteran journalist Saba Naqvi tells the story from the party’s founding in 1980 to its two stints in power.

Shades of Saffron: From Vajpayee to Modi is both a first-person account of racy events as they unfolded in the nation’s history, and a work that raises larger analytical points about the BJP’s growth. It examine the role of the RSS cadre and its equations with elected leaders, the calibration of ideology, the issue of political finance, the social expansion of the party, as also the cults of personality that would emerge around, first, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and then, more forcefuly, around Narendra Modi. The book is a riveting account of the journey when allies hesitated over associating with the BJP, to its presumed invincibility today.

The author’s long-standing equations with members of the party, developed over two decades of consistently fair reporting delivers a narrative full of insights that are both fresh and deep, and anecdotes that are as lively as they are telling. In revealing hitherto unknown aspects, and reminding readers of the bigger picture, Shades of Saffron is a deep dive into the contemporary history of a party that keeps reinventing itself. *

MEMORY IN THE AGE OF AMNESIA BY SAEED AKHTAR MIRZA

222pp, Rs 499

Faced with the frantic, precarious times we live in, Saeed Akhtar Mirza attempts to unravel the meaning of words like terror and patriotism, democracy and national interest.
Through essays that are tales and soliloquies, and stories within stories, he unravels the manufactured myths about nations and about the nature of power.
This is also a book about people: a Hindu refugee family that adopts Saeed as their own, a history lesson on Timur the Lame, artisans with an unusual connection to a temple in Ellora...
It is a collage created from stories about dreams and nightmares, hate and compassion, violence and repentance - and an enquiry into how our pasts led us to this present and the possibility that India’s future still holds. *

HISTORY REPEATING: WHY POPULISTS RISE AND GOVERNMENTS FAIL BY SAM WILKIN

279pp, Rs 599

We took boring for granted.
It was the iron law of electoral politics: the further from the centre ground you went, the more votes you lost to the opposition. Extremists of the right and left railed against the system but serious politicians knew they deserted the centre at their peril. Bland parties with bland ideas won so reliably that boring politics hardly seemed an achievement at all.
That was then.
What about now? Times when the centre can’t hold, when the populists take back control and set about making their country great again? 
At such moments, it turns out that the best guide to the future is the past. As risk analyst Sam Wilkin reveals in History Repeating, political chaos has hidden rules.
Beneath the noise and confusion of history, from Lenin and Khomeini to Trump and Brexit, there are patterns. The same dramas play out again and again, with variations. Russia’s working class revolution has surprising parallels to the events of 2016; Argentina’s century of populism and decline has unexpected lessons for post-Brexit Britain.

And only once you have sen the inner workings of the coups, uprisings an d revolutions that defined the past century will you be ready to face the interesting times to come.*

*All copy from book flap

First Published: Jun 22, 2018 19:07 IST