When The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta and Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief of IBN18 Network, took the mikes at the Crossword bookstore in Select CityWalk, Saket, on Thursday evening, the audience knew that a political debate would ensue. The hour-long conversation at the reading of Gupta’s book, Anticipating India: The Best of National Interest (HarperCollins, Rs 799), meandered through the alleys of Delhi during the 1984 riots, through the corridors of power and onto the protest grounds with Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.
With the store packed to full capacity, Gupta shared his experiences on the transition of India from 1984 to the country it is today, from the time when the nation faced Operation Blue Star to the current, changing face of India’s political scene.
After this, with a simple yet important question the discussions started. Gupta was asked what the inspiration for the book was. “It was Narayana Murthy. He is on my mailing list for the National Interest columns and every third week, he would compliment me and say these must be compiled into a book,” he said.
Talking about the rollercoaster ride that India had witnessed since 2011, Sardesai questioned Gupta on the Anna Hazare movement — if it was then that the real decline for the previous ruling party began. “We had just come out of the 2008 economic crisis then, interest rates were high and EMIs went up. The middle class was hurt with the scandals, including the telecom scandal. The political party had to pay for this and Anna Hazare gets credit,” he said.
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Navin Raheja, Chairman and Managing Director, Raheja Developers Limited, was next to ask if Gupta had any assessment of the gap between the current aspirations of the youth in India versus the present government’s ability to deliver them. “Nowadays people are very impatient. Modi has raised their expectations and he will has a real challenge ahead,” said Gupta, “The government has to be made more transparent and accessible. The benefit of reforms should also reach those who are not internet-savvy and well versed with smartphones.”
Another question was on the advent of ebooks and the relevance of hard copies. Gupta said, “In one way or the other, books will be read as long as people write interesting books. People still like the idea of holding the hard copy of a book in their hands. Also, you can’t sign an ebook. I often tell my fellow journalists that if we can produce content, we should. Some day, some Steve Jobs will decide the platform to put the books across which can be accessed by anyone and if they
are interesting, people will read them.” The session ended with the book signing.