The Election that Changed India

Atul K Thakur, Senior Associate Editor, INCLUSION

 Book Review: Non-fiction/2014:The Election that Changed India by Rajdeep Sardesai, Penguin/Viking, 372pp; Rs599 (Hardback)

Seasoned journalist Rajdeep Sardesai’s 2014:The Election that Changed India is compiled to give the perspective and remedial thoughts, how elections in India are now much more complex than the conventional tussle of ballets. However, it would be a hurried effort in reckoning that all the changes happened only through 2014 elections – earlier too, we saw how ‘born-to-preach’ troops of advertisers mislead the actual issues and slogans, especially since 2004 parliamentary elections.

Advertising is an old phenomenon in Indian politics, however the matter couldn’t be put on rest without admitting the increased effects lined up through real-time sell of ideas or dreams. This book’s heart of matter is placed to capture the unprecedented shift in poll campaign strategy and the devious role played by the Media& PR Network.

Indeed this time, the Congress Party lost the election before it entered the electoral fray and the Modi as ‘factor’ emerged there to establish a new identity, with an unimagined might in terms of numbers in Lok Sabha. Rest, all is history.

Sardesai’s book unleashes his personal experiences vis-à-vis the political developments in the country of over two decades. While doing this, he maintains the depth of political storyteller as well as of an election historian. Remarkably, the historians in India have given writing on elections amiss – somehow, the hacks roving inside the country have contradicted that trend on occasions.

In recent years, those lots of journalists have been strengthened with advent of electronic media. Nevertheless, a full-fledged book on the election and with the depth this book has, is quite rare to see in other works surfaced. Through the richness of anecdotes and balanced interpretation of truths, Sardesai’s maiden voyage of book-writing charts a territory so far not covered in his columns. This, as the narrative is candid, firm and timely.

The most interesting parts of the book recount the blunders done by the UPA regimes and how the desperations of people converged with their aspirations. Amidst those unrelenting movements, the Congress chosen to do what it was doing for a decade – no action or relaying less-pragmatic voices.

As other parties except the BJP was on the same page, the outcome of the elections was almost decided before the polls. However, the common masses of this nation did not know the extent of victory would be such miraculous. The book covers in details of ‘why& how’!

Sardesai’s early encounter with young Modi (then, Narendra Bhai for the journalists) in 1990’s and their first show on Tv after the 9/11 incident (Modi came as replacement from his party) – show how restless the later was to grow full-circle. Besides introspecting the hard realities of Gujarat Roits and how Modi cornered the existing state leadership right after taking charge as chief minister of Gujarat – the author has also not forgotten to count the sensibilities of the protagonist.

Even-though not consistently in sync with stating ‘beyond the obvious’ – Sardesai’s book never falls short on giving the readers, both information and insight about the resurgent India that has been a victim of lackluster governance and not so responsive polity.

(Atul K Thakur can be reached at

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