The winners of the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay New India Foundation Book Prize 2020 for the best non-fiction book on contemporary/ modern India were announced today. The Prize was given jointly to Amit Ahuja for his Mobilizing the Marginalized: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements (Oxford University Press) and to former Union minister Jairam Ramesh for his A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of VK Krishna Menon (Penguin Random House), a biography of politician and diplomat VK Krishna Menon.
A six-member jury panel that included jury chair, political scientist Niraja Gopal Jayal, historian Ramachandra Guha; entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani; historians Srinath Raghavan and Nayanjot Lahiri and entrepreneur Manish Sabharwal, selected the winners from a shortlist of six books. The jury citation for Ahuja’s book remarked upon his extensive research across four states that revealed “… why is it that Dalit ethnic parties perform poorly in states where their social mobilisation has historically been strong, yet perform well in states where such mobilisation has historically been weak? He also shows how the social mobilisation of Dalits, dividing their support across parties, results in superior welfare outcomes than when they vote as a bloc for one ethnic party.”
Ahuja is associate professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose work focuses on the processes of inclusion and exclusion in multi-ethnic societies. This is his first book. Congratulating Ramesh for a book that builds up “a compelling portrait of a brilliant, complicated and controversial man, whose public life came to a rather tragic end,” the jury citation remarked upon his treatment of new archival material to provide “fascinating insights into the personal and public like of Krishna Menon…”
Now in its third year, previous winners of the prize include Milan Vaishnav for his When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics (HarperCollins) in 2018 and Ornit Shani for How India Became Democratic (Penguin Random House) last year. The award carries a citation and a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh, that will be shared by the two authors.
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