Book Review: Newsman by Rajdeep Sardesai

Book Name: Newsman: Tracking India in the Modi Era

Author: Rajdeep Sardesai

Publisher: Rupa

Rating: 4/5

Book Blurb: The rise of Narendra Modi has heralded one of the most exciting and contentious periods in Indian politics. From the day he was sworn in as prime minister in May 2014, Mr. Modi has dominated the news cycle, attracting admirers and critics in equal measure. Rahul Gandhi and the Opposition too have slowly begun to find their voice even as the country is conflicted between a billion aspirations and rising mutinies. Who will win the big battle for 2019 as the Indian Political League enters the final stretch? What defines the Modi persona? How will the deep divisions in society be bridged? What are the challenges ahead of a ‘new’ India? And what of the lingering credibility crisis confronting the Indian media? As one of the country’s leading journalists with a ringside view to Indian politics, Rajdeep Sardesai’s incisive analysis of contemporary events decodes the key questions of our times.

Review: Newsman is a well written book, quite candid and discusses important political questions since the rise of PM Modi in the elections that awarded a majority to BJP after a long era of coalition politics.

Given Rajdeep’s long association with the news in India, it is no surprise that the book is well written and analyses difficult questions in an honest manner. He discusses the dilemma of reporting for a party where if you speak in favour- you risk being labelled as a bhakt and if against, even worse- anti-national!

The Modi juggernaut as it were has changed Indian politics in many ways. For one, politics has become a full time business and the Congress has found to be lagging behind an energetic party president like Amit Shah who is always working. In a sense, other political parties are simply reduced to either mimicking the BJP or trying to stitch shaky alliances since they cannot counter the Modi force on their own.

Rajdeep discusses almost all major factors such as demonetisation, the fake news dilemma, sensationalism reporting that is so prevalent today and the frequent threats journalists face in their line of duty. The media is an important pillar in any democracy and its surprising that the faith of the public has been so shaken in mainstream media that even good reporting is subjected to attacks by trolls.

Writing about the Justice Srikrishna report, he dwells: “Searching for the ‘root causes’ of any act of violence is fraught with danger. Just how far back will action-reaction theories take us, and do they eventually lead to rationalizing violence?”

The media may well rue the fact that the PM has granted selective audience but in a sense, it itself is to blame for this situation as the one sided reporting/propaganda during Godhra riots is what made the BJP seek the help of social media as the traditional media was not being fair to them. While endless debates have since taken place on the subject and will continue, it is the PM’s prerogative as to who he wishes to speak after all.

Rajdeep has done a good job in delivering a sketch of the PM and this book is a worthy read.

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