Shelf Life: Taking Stock

The book, in a nutshell, “is a powerful indictment of the Modi government’s performance” as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh puts it.

Title: Shades of Truth: A Journey Derailed
Author: Kapil Sibal
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Pages: 264
Price: 595

It has been almost five years since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled off a stunning victory in the Lok Sabha elections. Everything that has happened in the last 52 months is set to go for an assessment as election 2019 draws closer. For those looking for a critical approach in reviewing the government’s performance, Kapil Sibal’s Shades of Truth could be a useful guide. It may not offer much to political observers but if one is looking for a compilation of the current central government’s activities to take a stand on, then this is a handy guide. However, despite being a part of the establishment that came under severe criticism for its actions, policy decisions and “policy paralysis”, the author offers no credible explanation for the failures of his government, except that perceptions outplayed facts.

The book, in a nutshell, “is a powerful indictment of the Modi government’s performance” as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh puts it. In the first part — ‘Modi Sarkar Decoded’ — the former telecom minister gives his views on democracy and the threats to it under Modi. He speaks of Aadhaar and the right to privacy, judicial reforms and foreign policy. In part two — ‘The UPA Years: Myths and Reality’ — he gives his account of the key issues during the UPA government which includes the 2G scam, coal scam, the Lokpal Movement — referred to in the book as Arab Spring in India — and the decline of UPA.

A supporter of a secular and liberal polity, Sibal expresses his concerns over the threats to the idea of India. “The intolerant Hindu is Modi’s mascot. This is antithetical to all that Hinduism stands for and has stood for over centuries,” he says. The lawyer in him is also worried about the state of judicial affairs and justifies the attempts to move an impeachment motion against Dipak Misra, who was the CJI till October. Sibal warns the executive that any attempt to diminish the independence of the judiciary would weaken the democratic framework, and that, “in the end, individuals do not matter, only institutions do”. Sibal points out that Aadhaar, the brainchild of the UPA government, was meant to ensure that subsidies for the poor and the marginalised reach their target, but highlights the possibility of misusing the data in its new form. Never considered a political strategist, he, nonetheless, predicts that the attempts to form a mahagathbandan at the national level is going to be difficult, and the Congress party, with less than 50 seats, cannot dictate terms even though “the politics of liberal, secular parties is on track…”

But his optimism is also eloquent. “The ordinary Hindu is tolerant, eclectic and thoughtful and believes in the live-and-let-live principle. It is the chasm between this mindset, given to intolerance, and the Hindu mind, committed to tolerance, that will cause the ultimate downfall of the Modi government”.


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