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24 Akbar Road : A Short History of the People Behind the Fall and Rise of the Congress

Rasheed Kidwai, Hachette India, 2011, 352 p, ISBN : 9789350090770, $30.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

24 Akbar Road : A Short History of the People Behind the Fall and Rise of the Congress

Contents: Foreword: Rajdeep Sardesai. Introduction. 1. Witness to a venerable heritage. 2. A mother and her son. 3. The technology man. 4. Mr. Clean. 5. The non contender. 6. The joker in the pack. 7. The return of Gandhi. 8. The philosopher and the politician. 9. The rivals. References and Bibliography. Index.

In India’s constantly changing political, social and economic milieu, the Congress party has stayed one step ahead by constantly reinventing itself to stay in touch with peoples’ aspirations and the political realities of the day. Normally, a political party is known for its commitment to specific economic, social and political issues, but in the case of the Congress, ‘ideology’ does not seem to matter in equal measure. In most cases, the Congress’s concept of ‘continuity with change’ has helped the party tide over many crises.

In his 24 Akbar Road, Rasheed Kidwai, over many years of journalistic reportage and a close study of its affairs, has put together an incisive and engaging account of the Congress shape shifting nature and its tenuous hold at the center, providing a dispassionate observer’s glance at affairs within the Congress. Writing about the Congress has never been an easy affair. The Congress, as a natural part of power, has always been elitist, maintaining a certain distance from the media. This may not have been the case in the Nehru Rajiv era, but is certainly the case today. As a result reporting on the Congress is a bit like attempting to enter a closed, privileged circle. The few who manage to sneak in are expected to be suitably reverential to the leadership while those who are more critical are often denied access.

But Kidwai, who is also the author of the best selling Sonia: A biography, Brilliantly tracks the story of the contemporary Congress-its key characters, its ideology, its failures and its successes-in the years after the emergency. Using the Congress seat of power at 24 Akbar Road as his vantage, he draws a compelling account of the Congress leadership both backseat and forefront-from Indira, Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi to Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri, to the present day trinity of Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi.

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