Shashi Tharoor's ‘The Paradoxical Prime Minister’ is a meticulous attempt to break down the man, who rose to power from the masses, and a certain mania that fuels this absolute adoration of Narendra Modi. Tharoor’s book, that hit the stands months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, does a case study on the various pet projects and the much-publicised schemes of the PM and how they came through or just fell through.
With his second book in less than a year that focuses on Modi or ‘Moditva’, the Congress MP from Kerala seems to be relying on pen or rather his word pad to take on the might of Modi.
We start from the very beginning as Tharoor takes us back to the rustic Vadnagar village in Gujarat when little Narendra was a school-going lad. Tharoor traces down Narendra’s obsession for rules and discipline, and a penchant for presenting himself well - both character traits that seem to have grown with him. The young lad, who got inducted into RSS at the tender age of eight, quickly ran up through the ranks of his outfit, before finally joining the BJP.
We do get comments from Modi's brothers that reaffirm his compulsive obsession for discipline and respect for authority. Tharoor also paints a sorry picture of Modi's wife Jashodaben who despite being married to the most powerful person in the country leads a meagre life that includes scuttling around in public transport even while commandos trail behind providing security.
But the author quickly moves on to Modi’s ascent to the PM’s chair before stopping for a while to narrate the horrifying tale of Godhra - a catastrophic chapter that cannot be omitted from any discourse on Modi. The writer says that then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted to dismiss the Gujarat government after several hundreds were killed in the riots but that never happened.
In chronicling Modi’s growth, Tharoor summarises how he has outgrown the very outfit that gave him the prime job.
The Thiruvananthapuram MP also talks about how several schemes of the Modi government have been reduced to mere publicity stunts. Though Tharoor lauds the PM for spearheading the much-needed Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, he decries him for reducing the campaign to a mere photo op. The writer-politician tears into the demonetisation disaster when the government pulled out about 80 per cent of the currency in circulation. Even while explaining the absurdness of the whole project, Tharoor points out how people still stood by the PM saying they could stand in the ATMs for a few hours if it would eventually bring good to the country.
The book then expands to bring in controversial actions by those in the Modi ministry, his foreign policies and the tense relations India has had with our neighbours under the new PM.
Like his previous work, 'Why I am a Hindu', Tharoor takes on the BJP for playing divisive politics and chides Modi for not keeping a check on his ministers. He reiterated that for the first time in the country - all three heads of the nation - president, vice-president and prime minister are all members of the same outfit.
However, Tharoor’s work rings ominously similar to ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ - a book on Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh by his then policy adviser Sanjaya Baru. Released in April 2014, weeks ahead of then LS polls, that book had criticised Manmohan Singh for not being in control of his ministry.
Some may argue that the latest book to be a tit-for-tat from the opposition rank. But the prolific writer in Tharoor, who launched his book with a floccinaucinihilipilification, can be trusted not to denounce or confirm that.