By S A H Rizvi
Bureau Chief
The Times Kuwait

Encapsulating 50 personalities from the wide spectrum of Indian social and political milieu, and condensing their feats and foibles in a book form is indeed a daunting task. Nevertheless, prolific author and political writer Rashid Kidwai has now attempted to undertake this challenging task with his most recent book, ‘Leaders, Politicians, Citizens: Fifty Figures Who Influenced India’s Politics’.

Writing about Indian political and social figures requires a large and complex canvas that can encompass the indelible influence these people have had in shaping the socio-political environment in India over the years, said Mr. Kidwai. He added, “It is especially difficult when writing about those personalities who are no longer with us, and as such cannot defend or speak for themselves.” The acclaimed author made these comments during a recent interview he accorded to The Times Kuwait.

Leaders, Politicians, Citizens’ tells the stories of 50 such prominent individuals who shaped the country’s political history over the past several decades. The list, which cuts across ideologies and party affiliations, includes many charismatic swashbucklers, astute game-changers and mavericks.
Each profile dwells upon the individual’s legacy along with personal histories and anecdotes, capturing the person’s essence while never being judgemental.

The book has an amazing churn of politicians and citizens. If it has Devanand and thespian Dilip Kumar on the citizens side who made it into Parliament, the book offers a wide range of politicians from Ahmad Patel to Bal Thackeray from Jyoti Basu to P.V. Narasimha Rao and Sheila Dikshit

A chapter on Ahmed Patel spirals out as a dot line story so beautifully encapsulated. Just to quote his judicious silence and ability to move on his own instincts, Mr. Kidwai said, he once approached Mr. Patel, and suggested he write his memoirs, at least for the benefit of researchers and academicians. To which, the astute politician who had masterminded so many political maneuvers, replied “these secrets will go with me to my grave”.

It came to pass as he had planned, Mr. Patil died during the recent COVID-19 pandemic without leaving behind any records of the political maneuver he helped engineer over the years.

A journalist by profession Mr. Kidwai was known for his brilliant political writing and his ability to skillfully weave a story. His first book on Indian National Congress (INC) President Sonia Gandhi published in many languages was an instant best seller. Although not her official biography, it was the first intensively researched book that grasped various aspects of her life.

His last book was on young Indian politician Jyotiraditya Scindia, who left INC and was catapulted as Union Minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Center.

Commenting on the book during its launch in New Delhi recently, young INC leader from Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot said, “It’s not about the party you belong to, there was a sense of regard and respect among parliamentarians, irrespective of what ideology you represented. Once you are a member of the House, you are a member.”

He also lauded their ability to take criticism in the right manner, accept their mistakes and reach out to people who may not think alike. “That ability I think you’ve seen a deterioration in the last 15 years.”

Parliamentarian and spokesperson for the BJP, Jay Panda, who was also at the event said, “I’d like to congratulate the author for an excellent book. It’s very readable. And the fact that it goes into anecdotes and talks about relationships makes it extremely accessible.”
He was quick to add to the brewing debate on political discourse: “Sachin and I are from different parties and have often participated in discussions. We’ve had that sort of camaraderie.”

When asked about the disruptions faced in the functioning of the parliament, Panda said, “I have always maintained that disruptions lead us nowhere. As a parliamentarian, on a few occasions, I chose to walk out rather than disrupt the House and have even returned my emoluments of the day.”

Also, part of the debate was senior journalist Prem Prakash, who said, “Pandit Ji (Jawahar Lal Nehru) was a different person, Shastri Ji was a different person. “We are very grateful that Pandit Ji was there as a Prime Minister, as the founding father. He saw us through three elections. It is that which has given us democracy.” He also mentioned that as a country, India is “moving ahead well”. “We are not hopeless,” he said.

The book, ‘Leaders, Politicians, Citizens: Fifty Figures Who Influenced India’s Politics’ published by Hachette India, is now available at leading bookstores, The book carries a foreword by Shashi Tharoor, Member of Indian Parliament.

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