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India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy Paperback – August 12, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
The author alerts his readers early on that for many Indians "history" ended with independence. Apparently, there have been practically no general histories of India as a nation-state. Thus this book fills a serious gap for those Westerners, especially, who want to understand more about the second largest country (by population) and largest democracy in the world.
The author is an articulate and erudite guide, giving us a traditional chronological story through the administration of Rajiv Gandhi, and then a more or less thematic exploration of India's more recent developments. This works well as the last of Nehru's descendants to rule marks something of a watershed in Indian politics. The new system of highly fragmented regional and caste politics, leading to largely non-ideological coalition governments in Delhi, has persisted and grown since 1989. That has made Indian democracy in some ways stronger but also more cynical and corrupt. The author cites polling in which some 90% of the Indian electorate considers their political leaders corrupt, and he estimates that half or more of Indian politicians are on the take, large or small. Overall, he judges that India is "50% democratic and 80% united." (The corruption undermines the democracy; marginalized minorities resist governmental authority in remote and poorer regions of India.)
Indeed, the challenges of unity and democracy are the central concerns of the Indian story. The author has culled from a trove of eminent pundits predictions throughout India's history of its demise as a democracy or as a unified state.Read more ›
Firstly, the views on Nehru are refreshing and enlightening, especially because they contrast him with his daughter, who undid many of his contributions. Guha especially conveys how it was Indira Gandhi who probably inculcated the `dynasty' not just in the Congress party, but for others to emulate. You definitely don't leave this book feeling positive about Indira, and in my opinion, rightly so.
His view of the 1965 war with Pakistan: a `stalemate'. It was only post 1971 that India abandoned non-alignment in favor of the Soviets because of Russian pro-activeness, not the other way round. Going back to the mid-50s, India's non-alignment suffered when Nehru & Menon refused to slam the Soviets for their invasion of Hungary. There are far too many little interesting tid-bits to mention, but its great that he's covered a wide range of issues such as the rise of caste-based politics (over ideology) in the late 70s, the various cults of personality across the country, the botched Chinese war, etc. He does give the post independence leadership a positive pat on the back, given the circumstances. I especially like his coverage of the 90s that lead us to where India is today. One thing I've enjoyed about this book is that it is a good primer for understanding India's current affairs - it has improved my understanding of context when I read the morning papers in India. Even by the author's own admission that it takes a generation to view past events correctly, he has done an admirable job.Read more ›
The answer is obviously complicated but the author has done a very nice job of making the reader realize the uniqueness of the continuing grand Indian experiment in liberal democracy. Given the paucity of literature on developments within the country after 1947, this book has definitely filled a gap which avid India-watchers are sure to appreciate. To sum it up, the author has made a substantial contribution to the debate about the idea and essence of India and he follows in the footsteps of writers like Sunil Khilnani (The Idea of India), Octavio Paz (In light of India) and William Dalrymple (The Age of Kali). Appropriately timed as India celeberates its 60th year of Independence and reflects on its achievements and failures with a mixture of pride and somber reflection.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book had unlined pages, not mentioned in the original postingPublished 1 month ago by Rafique Khan
Excellent history of the modern India. Great help in understanding the economy and politics of todayPublished 1 month ago by Lillian
A very good book to know about post Independence events in India.Published 2 months ago by Arjun Anand
Interesting book that deals with the near history with acute eye and interpretation. Recommended reading for all students of the great subcontinentPublished 2 months ago by Arthur
Great, well written book! By reading it while traveling for 2 weeks in India, I gained a far better insight into what our tour guide had to say (much of which was biased,)Published 2 months ago by SCH
This is a narrative that is quite readable and covering the more recent history of India.Published 2 months ago by Vaidyanathan Ramaswami
Unfortunately the book is extremely underwhelming for those who have more than passing interest in political history of India. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer