Books about past Prime Ministers of India

india history politics indian-history indian-politics
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Days with Lal Bahadur Shastri

by Rajeshwar Prasad

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Lal Bahadur Shastri

by C. P. Srivastava

About the book:  The life of Lal Bahadur Shastri (1904-66), India's second prime minister and successor to Jawaharlal Nehru, is the absorbing saga of a little man who, while suffering the rigours of poverty in early life, rose to political eminence on the strength of moral principle. When Shastri died, he left no house, no land, no money. But he did leave behind an example which is morally inspiring. In an age riddled with political corruption, his career of exemplary integrity possesses a very special relevance for readers in contemporary India as well as abroad. Although Shastri's tenure as prime minister lasted only nineteen months, it was a period of high excitement and drama. Under Shastri's leadership India successfully fought a major war against Pakistan. This came as a tremendous boost to India after the China debacle three years earlier. This Indo-Pak war was followed by successful peace negotiations between the two countries at the famous Tashkent Conference, where, with the ink scarcely dry after all the momentous signatures, Shastri dramatically died of a heart attack. Several social and political issues of national importance and international interest emerged or found successful resolution during the time that Shastri held political power in Nehru's cabinet, as well as when he took over the premiership of India. There was the Kamaraj Plan; the question of Nehru's successor; the English-Hindi national language controversy; the problems of food scarcity and foodgrain imports; the Hazratbal episode of the stolen sacred relic from the shrine in Kashmir; the complicated diplomatic negotiations over Kashmir in the United Nations; the tangled web of tightrope relations with China, the USA, andthe USSR; the controversy and suspicion over the circumstances of Shastri's sudden death; and finally the heroism and acclaim that came to Shastri.

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The Untold Vajpayee

by N.P. Ullekh

About the book:  Despite his grand ‘secular’ statements in Parliament that bordered on the Nehruvian, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has often taken brief excursions into the hardline camp. In 1983, he made an incendiary speech during the Assam elections in which the presence of ‘Bangladeshi foreigners’ in the state was a big issue. Even the BJP had disowned Vajpayee’s speech, which possibly inspired the massacre of over 2000 people, mostly Muslims, in Nellie in Assam. Vajpayee, one of the shrewdest politicians of India, is known for negotiating multiple contradictions: from militant nationalism to his secret family life; his stint as a communist; his indulgence in food; influence of Gandhi and Nehru; Narendra Modi and Gujarat issues; foreign policies; and his attempt to project himself as a moderate face, if not liberal, among others. Exploring crucial milestones of Vajpayee’s career and his traits as a seasoned politician, the book looks at his relationship with leaders of his party and the love–hate association with RSS and its feeder organizations. Thoroughly researched, supported by hard facts and accompanied by inside stories and anecdotes, insightful interviews and archival photographs, The Untold Vajpayee would open a window to the life and times of a poet politician.

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The Accidental Prime Minister

by Sanjaya Baru

About the book:  Written by Manmohan Singh's media adviser and trusted aide, this book describes Singh's often troubled relations with his ministers, his cautious equation with Sonia Gandhi and how he handled the big crises from managing the left to pushing through the nuclear deal. Insightful, acute and packed with political anecdotes, 'The Accidental Prime Minister' is one of the great insider accounts of Indian political life.

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Strictly Personal: Manmohan and Gursharan

by Daman Singh

About the book:  'Clearing my throat, I announce that I have an idea for my next book. My mother smiles encouragingly. My father shows no sign of having heard. He is immersed in an editorial, no doubt another scathing comment on the state of the nation. Bravely, I continue. I say I am thinking of writing a book about them.' Strictly Personal: Manmohan and Gursharan is that book. In 2004, Manmohan Singh became prime minister of India. Over the next ten years he led the country through opportunities and challenges, not without some controversy. But this is not that story. This is the story of what went before, and it is told by his daughter Daman Singh. It charts the journey of a young boy growing up in undivided India, battling family hardship to pursue his dream of higher education, determining his intellectual and moral compass and learning to live life on his own terms. It is equally about Gursharan Kaur, the woman with whom he made that life. Vivacious and talented Gursharan, the centre of the family and of the circle of friends they shared. And about their three daughters, Upinder, Daman and Amrit, growing up with a resilient mother and a workaholic father who stepped into the limelight. Based on conversations with her parents and hours spent in libraries and archives, this honest and affectionate memoir provides new insights into the former prime minister and his wife. Moving from Gah, Nowshera and Peshawar; through Amritsar, Patiala and Hoshiarpur; to Chandigarh, Cambridge and Oxford; then New York, Bombay and Geneva; and on to New Delhi, this intimate portrayal of two lives is also the history of a nation unfolding over half a century.

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Half - Lion

by Vinay Sitapati

About the book:  When P.V. Narasimha Rao became the unlikely prime minister of India in 1991, he inherited a nation adrift, violent insurgencies, and economic crisis. Despite being unloved by his people, mistrusted by his party, and ruling under the shadow of 10 Janpath, Rao transformed the economy and ushered India into the global arena. With exclusive access to Rao’s never-before-seen personal papers and diaries, this definitive biography provides new revelations on the Indian economy, nuclear programme, foreign policy and the Babri Masjid. Tracing his early life from a small town in Telangana through his years in power, and finally, his humiliation in retirement, it never loses sight of the inner man, his difficult childhood, his corruption and love affairs, and his lingering loneliness. Meticulously researched and brutally honest, this landmark political biography is a must-read for anyone interested in knowing about the man responsible for transforming India.

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Jawaharlal Nehru

by Sarvepalli Gopal

About the book:  Nehru's private papers and the author's firsthand knowledge of Nehru inform a laudatory account of the Indian leader's life, education, personality, and political career

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Nehru

by Walter Crocker

About the book:  Elegant, perceptive, and startlingly prophetic, Nehru: A Contemporary’s Estimate is one of the finest accounts of Nehru ever written. Walter Crocker, the Australian high commissioner to India, admired Nehru the man—his grace, style, intelligence and energy—and was deeply critical of many of his political decisions—the invasion of Goa, India’s Kashmir policy, the Five Year Plans. This book, written shortly after Nehru’s death, is full of invaluable first hand observations about the man and his politics. Many of Crocker’s points, too—especially the implications of the Five Year Plans and of the introduction of democracy to India—are particularly relevant today. Out of print for many years, this classic biography has been reissued with an authoritative foreword by Ramachandra Guha.

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Indira Gandhi

by Pupul Jayakar

About the book:  Indira Gandhi S Life Was Part Of The Unfolding History Of India, Intricately Woven With India S Past And Future. It (Became) Inevitable, Therefore, That Politics (Formed) A Backdrop To Her Public And Often Private Actions. Indira Gandhi S Life Spanned Over Two-Thirds Of A Century. By The Time Of Her Brutal Assassination In 1984, She Had Established Herself As The Most Significant Political Leader India Had Seen Since The Death Of Her Father, Jawaharlal Nehru. In This Book, Written With The Close Cooperation Of Her Subject, Pupul Jayakar Seeks To Uncover The Many Personalities That Lay Hidden Within Mrs Gandhi. Much More Than A Political Biography, The Book Reveals The Complex Personality Of Indira Gandhi-Her Thoughts And Feelings, Her Hates And Prejudices, Her Insights And Her Faults, Her Loves And Emotional Entanglements. Full Of Startling Insights, Indira Gandhi: A Biography Paints A Magnificent Portrait-At Once Empathetic And Unprejudiced-Of One Of The Twentieth Century S Most Remarkable Women.

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Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi

by Katherine Frank

About the book:  The definitive and first non-partisan biography of one of the most formidable political figures of the twentieth century (voted Woman of the Millennium in a BBC poll, 2000)

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Indira Gandhi

by Nayantara Sahgal

About the book:  How did Indira Gandhi reach the pinnacle of Indian politics? Did India move away from freedom under her leadership? What kind of woman was she? Indira Gandhi made unorthodox use of power and possessed a highly individual style of functioning. In this book, Nayantara Sahgal persuasively argues that authoritarianism was the inevitable outcome of Indira's personality and temperament. Her leadership marked a drastic break with the democratic tradition of her family and Indian politics. During her regime, the political landscape of India underwent profound changes. The Emergency of 1975 - 77 was used to promote her son Sanjay as her ultimate successor. The entry of her elder son. Rajiv, onto politics after Sanjay's death, and his immediate political prominence showcased Indira's essential belief in her family's right to rule. Nayantara Sahgal's personal knowledge of her cousin, in combination with her unparalleled access to letters exchanged within the Nehru family, makes for a striking and insightful analysis of Indira's tryst with political power and an unusually penetrating psychological and political portrait from an intimate family viewpoint. Praise for Nayantara Sahgal 'Her writing is . . . thoughtful and intelligent.' Shashi Tharoor 'She is brilliant . . . complex and questioning.' Pearl S. Buck

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The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi

by Neena Gopal

About the book:  On 21 May 1991, journalist Neena Gopal had finished just one part of an interview with Rajiv Gandhi—the last of his life—when his car reached the election rally at Sriperumbudur. Moments later, Rajiv Gandhi was dead, blown up by suicide bomber Dhanu, irrevocably changing the course of Indian politics, as Neena Gopal, just yards behind him, watched in horror. In this gripping, definitive book, Gopal reconstructs the chain of events in India and at the LTTE’s headquarters in Sri Lanka where the assassination plot was hatched, and follows the trail of investigation that led to the assassins being brought to justice. Drawing on extensive interviews, research and her own vast experience as a journalist, she deftly establishes the background—the shortsightedness of India’s Sri Lanka policy; the friction between the intelligence agencies and between the agencies and the external affairs ministry; the many warnings that went unheeded; and the implacable hatred that LTTE supremo Prabhakaran felt for Rajiv Gandhi. Bringing all these complex threads together, Gopal takes us step by step to Sriperumbudur as Rajiv Gandhi walked inexorably to his death on that tragic May evening twenty-five years ago.

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Matters of Discretion

by I. K. Gujral

About the book:  The first-ever autobiography written by an Indian prime minister. Only once in a lifetime comes a book that simply must be read! An absorbing, authentic and definitive account, by a former prime minister, of crucial events that had a significant impact on the nation’s destiny after independence. I K Gujral has penned his life story in a forthright and candid manner. He entered the political fray as a freedom fighter in the British era, and after the tumultuous events that rocked the Indian subcontinent in the wake of the partition in August 1947, crossed over from Pakistan to India, where he had to begin life from scratch. Despite facing tremendous odds, on the basis of his perseverance, resilience and never-say-die attitude, Gujral’s achievements allowed him to witness and shape India’s contemporary history. Gujral joined Congress Party and was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1964. He was the Information and Broadcasting Minister when emergency was imposed, which entailed arbitrary press censorship. Since he refused to bow down to the de facto powers, he was unceremoniously replaced and later sent by Indira Gandhi as India’s ambassador to the USSR, a post he handled with commendable tact and finesse. After his stint in Moscow, he returned to India and re-entered the ‘political whirlpool’ by joining the Janata Dal. He became minister for external affairs under V P Singh (1989) and Deve Gowda (1996). Gujral reached the pinnacle of his career when he became the prime minister on 1997. During his priministership, despite the exigencies and pressures of running a coalition government, he endeavoured to achieve progress in many spheres. The Gujral Doctrine (a set of five principles to guide the conduct of foreign relations with India’s immediate neighbours) was widely acclaimed in both India and the West. This volume, a valuable addition to the literature on contemporary history, provides a deep insight into the political scene as it unfolded after independence and delineates the roles played by a wide spectrum of politicians, bureaucrats, and many others.

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An Indian Political Life

by Paul R. Brass

About the book:  This volume traces the course of development of Charan Singh's discontent in the Congress, which aided by the antagonism on the part of Nehru and his daughter towards him, and the decline of the Congress as the dominant party in Uttar Pradesh, led ultimately to his defection to form a new political party and, at last, to achieve his goal of becoming chief minister of UP. Like the earlier volume, this book is based primarily on the author's personal relationship with Charan Singh during his political career and early access to his massive political files and the author's own personal interviews with politicians, other public persons, peasants, and others over 50 years, up to the present. It also provides an account of the chief ministership of Sucheta Kripalani—a political outsider catapulted to the top by the power struggles of fractious factions—and at the same time explores against the backdrop of regionalism in UP the considerable yet little-known role played by Charan Singh in issues of states reorganization for northern India. This book is the second volume of a multi-volume work on The Politics of Northern India: 1937 to 1987.

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An Indian Political Life

by Paul R. Brass

About the book:  Charan Singh and Congress Politics, 1967 to 1987, the third and final volume in the trilogy of The Politics of Northern India, begins with the dramatic political event of the fall of the Congress in the most critical state of UP and the formation of the first non-Congress government. This event was of the utmost concern to Indira Gandhi, for she could not rule the country without a firm political base in the most populous state of the country. Insofar as Charan Singh was concerned, it marked the beginning of his rise to power in the state and the beginning also of the dramatic and complicated struggle between him and Indira Gandhi. The current volume, like the previous volumes, is based upon the author’s access to all the critical documents in Charan Singh’s political life, an access that was provided to him by Charan Singh personally, and which he has used specifically for this work on his political life.

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