“24, Akbar Road” – by Rasheed Kidwai.
With a foreword by Rajdeep Sardesai (of CNN-IBN) who is notorious for being biased towards the Congress party, I was expecting this book to be more of a Congress mouthpiece. But surprisingly, it turned out to be a factual book detailing the events out of public purview which unfolded slowly behind the scenes in shaping up of today’s Congress party. With a rich blend of facts and story telling, Rasheed has used his experience of journalism and several anecdotes presented in a unique conversational style which will keep the reader engaged, giving the feel of reading a thriller and finish the book in one stretch.
Starting from the electoral defeat of Indira Gandhi after emergency in 1977, the book goes on to narrate about the events and the people behind the sudden fall and gradual rise of Congress. Although the events about emergency excesses, Sanjay’s follies, Indira’s return to power, The Gandhi-Bachchan family relationship, Rajiv’s policies, Sitaram Kesari’s adamances, Sonia’s entry into politics & her rise can be written as different books altogether, this book has managed to provide a brief overview of all the above mentioned aspects, giving a complete picture in just 250 pages.
While some of the facts presented in the book might be known to the old-timers, it might raise eyebrows of most of the youngsters who are unaware of the party’s history. It provides some insights into the roots of Digvijay Singh, Suresh Kalmadi, Arjun Singh, PV Narasimha Rao, ND Tiwari and other stalwarts. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is that the author has tried to maintain his composure without being opinionated towards any leader and limits himself only to provide information.
I found the last 20-30 pages to be a little overboard due to some excessive praise to Sonia for her efforts towards reviving the party. Although I dont deny Sonia’s efforts, I consider it as a party brand building exercise for personal gains which benefited the party but not the country. But apart from those few pages, the rest of the book is crisp, informative & interesting because it provides some insights into the adulation for Gandhi family and the crooked politics that takes place behind the scenes.
During the launch event of this book, senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar who was invited to the event stated: “Congress is a circus!!”, much to the embarrassment of his party which chose not to respond to his remark. I did not understand what he really meant but after reading this book, his statement makes sense. The Congress is indeed a circus consisting of some of the most powerful and wild beings but need to be tamed by a ringmaster all the time. It does not matter whether the ringmaster is old or young or inexperienced but the ringmaster needs to have a certain surname.