Books That Whipped Up Political Controversies

Representative Image.

Books on political leaders

What the author calls an insight, the world calls it an insinuation. It is the inherent conflict between the ‘Right to Freedom of Expression’ and the Right to Reputation that has led to the untimely death of several books. While some books claimed to be a first-hand account of what happens in power corridors, some have been whistle-blowers in disguise of ‘earnest research’. The potential of these books to hurt and incense the political class of India indicates that the people of the country, like Shakespeare, don’t appreciate anyone “who filches from me my good name, robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed”.

Here’s a list of books that didn’t rub off too well with the readers:

The Accidental Prime Minister
Author: Sanjaya Baru

Manmohan Singh’s former media advisor was accused of creating a ‘baseless’ and ‘mischievous’ work of fiction that belittled the erstwhile PM’s capability of reining in his cabinet ministers. PM’s daughter accused Baru of backstabbing her father. Many questioned the timing of the book’s release ahead of the 2014 General Elections. Baru’s claim that Congress president Sonia Gandhi had the final say on crucial government decisions and she decided key appointments to the Cabinet and the PMO was seen as a reiteration of the widely held belief that Singh was a puppet Prime Minister.

Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and other Truths
Author: P C Parakh

The ex- Coal Secretary P.C. Parakh’s book, which claimed giving insight into the entrails of PMO and Coal Ministry, was looked upon by many as an effort towards spoiling chances of UPA in the general election. Released in the wake of Sanjaya Baru’s launch of ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’, the book was vocal in its portrayal of Manmohan Singh as helpless. According to the author, the UPA government could have avoided coal scam if the Prime Minister had “used his authority” and pushed for reforms.

The Red Sari
Author: Javier Moro

After Manmohan Singh, it was Sonia Gandhi’s turn to be in the eye of storm when the Spanish writer came up with a controversial biography of the Congress President. When the Congress-led UPA government was in power in 2010, it didn’t allow the release of the English version of the book. According to a report, the “dramatised biography” faced threats of lawsuits from the members of the Congress. Sonia Gandhi was reportedly hurt by the book’s claim that she was a snob and wanted to leave the country after her husband was assassinated. Her lawyers alleged that the book was full of “falsehoods, defamatory statements, completely imaginary and invented conversations”.

Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence
Author: Jaswant Singh

He had never thought that his views on Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah would cost him a party membership. Instead of adhering to the common notion that Jinnah was the villain and demonising him for the partition of India, the expelled leader of the BJP praised him as a ‘self-made’ man and likened him to Mahatma Gandhi. Singh didn’t stop there. He held Jawaharlal Nehru’s centralised policy responsible for the partition. In fact, Gujarat banned his book for stating that Sardar Vallabhai Patel, considered the architect of the modern India, was “far off the mark” with his projections about the future of India.

The Moor’s Last Sigh
Author: Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie’s novel courted controversy mainly because of the character that was akin to Bal Thackeray, the then Shiv Sena leader. What was the final nail in the coffin was the naming of the character of a dog after India’s first Prime Minister. The book was banned by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government before it was revoked in 1996. However, the owners of the book stores feared political backlash and let the book languish in uncertain corners.

The Descent of Air India
Author: Jitendra Bhargava

There aren’t enough books with India’s national carrier being the protagonist. ‘The Descent of Air India’ could have been one of the formidable entrants had it not been marred by controversy. A tell-all book by Jitendra Bhargava – a former executive director of Air India – is believed to contain startling revelations on how misfortune befell Air India because of the ex-Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel. The book, which was withdrawn by Bloomsbury, has several mentions of how the airline was ‘systematically mismanaged’ over the years by ones at the helm of affairs.

One Life is Not Enough
Author: Natwar Singh

Yet another insider’s autobiography kicked up a storm when former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh’s book ‘One Life is Not Enough’ claimed that Sonia Gandhi refused to accept the prime ministerial role in 2004 at Rahul Gandhi’s insistence. This piece of information was among other never-heard-before facts on incidents Singh was privy to.

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