Political biographies for curious souls

But beware, biographies can get more yawns than yeahs; the trick is to pitch the guy and his gall in racy prose faster than Picasso can say “Guernica”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi.AP

After hundreds of years, fiction seems to be inching close to its sell-by date, pun intended, except for Chick Lit and Amitava Ghosh. Autobiographies work as long as they’re written or ghostwritten by Steve Jobs or Michelle Obama. Self-help books do as much good as a protein shake for a dead man. The new oeuvre getting cash registers singing is biography. All it takes are Google and the cheugy chutzpah of an amateur historian to churn out a successful saga.

Writing a biography of Narendra Modi is the fave attention-seeking scheme of all saffron balladeers, with Yogi Adityanath biogs coming second. With Hindutva bibliophilism in vogue, Veer Savarkar is the royalty route for self-invented Google historians. In every ethos, lauding the king has been the ticket to riches and rewards. But beware, biographies can get more yawns than yeahs; the trick is to pitch the guy and his gall in racy prose faster than Picasso can say “Guernica”.

Rahul Gandhi, The Ghost Who Walks: First, no publisher wants to publish his story because it won’t sell, unless it’s a jokebook. A keek at how a man, once considered India’s most eligible bachelor with dimples, became India’s most undesired politician is worth a try. Mama’s boy is a good place to start.

Shashi Tharoor, The Sexy Sesquipedalianist: A sureshot bestseller. The rizz of India’s most flamboyant politician who exemplifies power is the ultimate aphrodisiac trope: his irresistibility to women voters and sensuous socialites is his political weapon. How did he finesse the art of tossing his hair back so stylishly? What defines the true mojo of the diplomat-writer-MP-social lion; a Hindu who can recite the scriptures better than any saffron savant and knock back a malt as smoothly as a Scotsman? Beware of the word play though, he could give our Shankaracharyas a new Sanskrit word longer than Gadkari’s highways.

Nitin Gadkari, The Road-Roller: The Man from Maharashtra is as big a Sangh heavyweight as one of his road-rollers. Modi’s bête noire, he exemplifies Charles Darwin’s comrade in arms, Herbert Spencer’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ theory. Of late he is keeping schtum, flinging no more veiled barbs against the BJP superpowers. Modi-haters wish the enigmatic roadie will be PM, but he refuses to do a pran pratistha in Lok Kalyan Marg.

Lalu Yadav, The Buffalo Soldier: A venal veterinary voyage through fodder warehouses packed with money blacker than a buffalo. Nehru wrote Glimpses of World History in jail, but Glimpses of Scams and Slammer by Lalu Yadav could do the trick. And why family planning flopped in Bihar.

Nitish Kumar, The Cross-Breed: The man who crosses floors as shamelessly as a snake oil salesman will do anything to become prime minister. An expert at hybrid ideologies, he picked up a halo quitting his job as railway minister after a train accident in 1999, but lost it somewhere along the way, saying hello too many times to the BJP and RJD.

Mamata Banerjee, Bengal’s Belle of the Ball: If Girish Chandra Ghosh is the father of the golden age of Bengali theatre, Didi can easily be its most popular actor now. Her appearance on the poll stage in a wheelchair with a bandaged leg did more to get her a landslide than the BJP’s boo-boos. Able to switch to poor man’s patois with the ease of a Bengali picking on hilsa bones, she is the only woman politician who keeps Opposition oracles guessing.

Note to publishers: Politicians make good subjects as long as they are objects in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling.

Ravi Shankar


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