The publishers of Narendra Modi’s biography by British freelance writer and TV producer Andy Marino are set to add new chapters on his election campaign, the victory and his vision for a new and stronger India. “The revised edition of the book (Narendra Modi: A Political Biography) will be out in July,” said Vikas Rakheja, managing director, Manjul Publications, the Bhopal-based publishing house with regional rights to the book originally published in English by Harper Collins India.
Marino has not met Modi after his victory, but says he has a lot of unused information from his interactions with him last August. “I still have a lot left to add from my original conversations with him, particularly details of his vision for India and his future plans,” Marino told The Indian Express from London. “But of course, I would like to meet him again for the new edition,” he said.
Marino, who claims to have “eight hours of recorded conversations” with Modi from meetings spread across a “couple of weeks” last year, put together the 300-page biography in a record time of three months. The process of editing began in October even before the final draft had been submitted and it was released late March, just before the elections.
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After the launch, Modi in his media interviews said he hadn’t authorised anyone to write his biography. Marino, however, has a different memory. “There is no unauthorised biography… Of course he (Modi) knew,” he said. “I got access to Modi only after people close to him were convinced that I will write an objective and truthful account of his personal and professional life.”
There have been several accounts on how Marino, not too well-known an author and not someone known for a deep knowledge of India, its politics, Gujarat or Modi himself, found access to the elusive leader. It surprised many in the Indian media that Modi indulged a foreign freelance writer with details of his personal and political life. Before meeting Modi in August 2013, Marino had come to India only once — in 2004, to make a documentary on monsoons.
It now emerges that the biography project was conceived by people other than Marino, one of them being Mumbai-based author Minhaz Merchant. “The proposal came to us from Minhaz. Throughout the period of publishing we interacted mainly with him…he was the one who vetted the manuscript,” says a senior executive of Harper Collins.
Merchant, however, said he only helped Marino get access to Modi. “I gave him the names and phone numbers of people who could facilitate his meeting.” Merchant maintains he had a personal interest in the book as he was “pained” by the “vilification” campaign by the Indian media. “An independent, objective and honest account of Modi as an individual and a political leader was sorely missing,” he said.
According to Merchant, he met Marino at Biographer’s Club in London, and a conversation led to the idea of the book. Incidentally, one of Modi’s poll strategists, Manoj Ladwa, also hails from London. While the three agreed they know one another, they denied Ladwa had any role in pitching the biography, while one person close to Ladwa maintained that the book was part of a PR exercise targeting international audiences.
According to Minhaz, the book was “well received” internationally. In India, Harper Collins has sold around 10,000 copies in English and Manjul Publications 2,000 in Hindi and 1,500 in several regional languages.
“He is a man with a clean heart…he has no vengeance…he is a great leader,” says Marino. “I will be most keen to spend more time with him now as it has been proved that people of India did not buy the lies spread about him.”