Title: The Paradoxical Prime Minister

Author: Shashi Tharoor

Publication: Aleph

Price: Rs. 799

Pages: 504

Shashi Tharoor has been a habitual ‘traffic violator’ if you go by his own acceptance that the middle of the road, after all, is the place where you get hit by traffic from both directions. This time he has crashed into India’s most guarded enclosure, 7, Lok Kalyan Marg (Formerly, 7, Race Course Road) the official residence of Prime Minister of India. His act has compelled Narendra Modi to look out of his fortress, till date guarded by the personalized security cover of ‘Modi Bhakts’, and take a look at the gate crasher named Tharoor.

Through his latest book The Paradoxical Prime Minister, Tharoor in his above-the-rest style has made an attempt to nudge at Modi when, most importantly, the battleground for 2019 is getting ready. As a reader, one might have various preconceived notions about Narendra Modi as an individual, but as a part of electorate, one has to make up his or her mind about the efficiency of the Prime Minister. Author’s personal encounters with Modi over the years, right from his Gujarat Chief Minister days to the present, has undoubtedly helped Tharoor to quote and write some previously unheard or reported instances.

Interestingly, Tharoor in this book admits that being a Congressman he was at the receiving end of the criticism by some of his own fellow party men for praising some of the initiatives undertaken by Modi. But, quickly goes on to add that it did not last for long and it all came crashing down and his respect for the person on the Prime Minister’s chair was out of respect for the electorate. They had elected him and as a democrat, the author felt an obligation to respect their collective judgment enough to see if Modi would live up to the voters’ faith in his words and promises.

Fifty chapters might seem way too much for highlighting the paradoxical side of an individual, but Tharoor also knows that it is no ordinary man he is writing about. And understanding Modi’s growth and stature, they seem very well justified. In all the chapters, divided into five sections: The Paradoxical Prime Minister, The Modification of India, Moditva and Misgovernance, The Failure of Modinomics and Flights of Fancy, Tharoor has left no stone unturned to make every chapter an interesting one with a lot of behind the scene drama and on and off conversations.

In 2017, in a rare one-on-one conversation with the Prime Minister, the author raised an aspect of Opposition criticism of something Modi had said or done. To which Modi replied: “You know, in some parts of India, if a man of low caste sports a mustache or dares to ride a horse, he is beaten up by the higher castes for his presumption. That is what is happening to me. Some people will never accept that man like me is the Prime Minister of India. That is why they keep attacking me.”
With general elections not too far, Modi’s reasoning of non-acceptance by some will be once again put to test. Tharoor’s The Paradoxical Prime Minister is no doubt an intellectual fodder to those who not only understand politics or study it as a subject matter, but also for those who participate actively in it with a mission to promote Moditva or to oppose it. Will the real Modi stand-up? Will Tharoor take a definite stand in an attempt to avoid becoming a paradoxical figure himself? Only the time will tell…which isn’t too far.

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