Updated on: Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 10:02 AM IST

'A Promised Land': Here is why Barack Obama's memoir talks about Manmohan Singh but does not mention PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama stroll in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi |

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama stroll in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi |


Former US President Barack Obama's recent book has sent many in India into a frenzy. The book touches upon many of the politician's personal experiences, including his interaction with and perception of Indian politics and its leaders. And his comments on the BJP and Rahul Gandhi has evoked quite the reaction.

For the uninitated, the memoir talks about several Indian political leaders, and even recalls a dinner meeting with then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Also in attendance were Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Michelle Obama. And while the former President is lavish in his praise of Singh and Sonia Gandhi, it is his comments on Rahul Gandhi that have delighted and outraged Twitter.

"Rahul Gandhi has a nervous, unformed quality about him, as if he were a student who'd done the coursework and was eager to impress the teacher but deep down lacked either the aptitude or the passion to master the subject," quotes Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in his review of the memoir.

And as Twitter erupted into a frenzy, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted that he had gotten hold of an advance copy of the book, noting that there is not much on India in the book. "Bigger news: in 902 pages, Narendra Modi is not mentioned by name at all," he added in his post.

Why is Narendra Modi not mentioned?

A Promised Land, as Obama wrote in September, is "an honest accounting" of his presidency and the many external and internal forces that the US contends with on a regular basis. The memoir that is to be made available from today, is the first of two planned volumes that Obama had written following his two-term tenure as President of the United States. It follows a chronological order, and as such concludes with the events surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011.

At the time, Narendra Modi had not been a massive part of the political discourse at the Centre. Manmohan Singh had been the Prime Minister of India, while Sonia and Rahul were leading members of the political party at the helm. In contrast, from 2001 to 2014, Narendra Modi had been the Chief Minister of Gujarat and a member of Parliament. As such, it would have been unusual for a chronological recounting of Obama's Presidency to talk about Narendra Modi. Keep in mind that India as a whole makes up only a minuscule part of the book.

Now, it is not that the BJP has been wholly left out of the book. Obama, in the same page as the remarks on Gandhi, even wonders about the party's "divisive nationalism. Leaving the aforementioned dinner meeting, Obama writes that he had wondered at the time whether Rahul Gandhi would be able to take over the reigns. "Would the baton be successfully passed to Rahul, fulfilling the destiny laid out by his mother and preserving the Congress Party's dominance over the divisive nationalism touted by the BJP?" he asks.

It is more likely that the second volume will make mention of Indian politics circa 2014. And while A Promised Land may not have mentioned Modi, Obama has lavished praise on the leader in the past, even calling the PM India's "Reformer-in-Chief" in a Time introduction.


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Published on: Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 10:02 AM IST