Book: The Crown Prince, The Gladiator, The Hope: Battle for Change
Publisher: Harper Collins
Price: Rs 330
The season of books on 2014 has not ended. Achhe din, almost Anno Domini-like, seems to have urged several people to equate the year with “cataclysmic change”, a “revolution” and a “new India”. In 2015, when most adjectives appear bruised and burnt, and a fair amount of water has made its way under the bridge, a book on Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal and the last general elections, that too written by a TV journalist-turned-politician should make for tedious reading. But Ashutosh’s The Crown Prince, The Gladiator, The Hope: Battle for Change stands out, and is sure to delight jaded readers.
Ashutosh, a veteran of Hindi print and television media, joined politics during the period the book documents. His voice is compelling and the research is meticulous, making this a useful and exciting read. More so, because he attempts to go beyond the cliches to describe this new AD.
What wins you over immediately is the way the book has been structured. The cover suggests that this is just another account reducing 2014 to three individuals, but the net he casts is much wider than just three people. The author navigates between his own role as a witness/journalist/participant commendably well. He highlights the facts that shaped events but are not acknowledged enough, the mood in the country as well as Narendra Modi’s stamina in ensuring he crosses the finishing line. Rahul Gandhi is assessed with empathy but also seen through clear eyes: his team’s and his failure to simply meet Modi in the ring, how they succumbed to the Modi propaganda “tsunami”.
The middle section focusses on the Aam Aadmi Party’s journey. While the book was written well before the rift in AAP burst open, reading that section is illuminating, for both Ashutosh’s insight and the detail he brings to the table. The temptation to turn this into a hagiography of Kejriwal must have been tremendous but Ashutosh resists. Making the book a diary of a politician as much as that of a journalist, without allowing any one strand to dominate, is the strength of this book.
AAP supporters are usually defensive about the role they played in the creation of the sense of a vacuum in 2011, which then dissipated two years on, preparing the ground for Modi’s campaign. But this has been described in a way that makes it worthwhile for anyone still looking for books on 2014 to read.
In selfie-obsessed India, it’s a surprise that the book is not a narration of how close Ashutosh is to how many leaders, or whom he knows on a first-name basis, but a celebration of a big political upheaval in India. You are turned into a fan by the time you reach the last page. It went to the printers before the Delhi results.
The last line is: “My latest target is to stop Modi’s juggernaut in Delhi.” Sequel, Ashutosh?