My Book review of "Rogue Elephant: Harnessing the Power of India’s Unruly Democracy" by Simon Denyer. Cross posted from Amazon.com
Rogue Elephant is an interesting analysis of some aspects of India's democracy. The author, who has spent the past decade or so reporting on India draws from his notes while highlighting observations.
The book begins and concludes with an analysis of the infamous gang-rape in Delhi that shocked the conscience of the nation. The author devotes several chapters to money and corruption with a brief review of the political players including Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. Simon was rightly betting on one of them ascending to the role of India's Prime Minister. This ensures the book continues to be relevant in 2014 when published.
As with any political narrative, the views of the author and his biases are bound to creep in. This book is no exception. The author focuses on politics in the book while skimming economic reality of life and society. In reality both are intertwined and an analysis of one should include the other. Information Technology and Business Process outsourcing and globalization of Indian manufacturing get only a passing mention. Even the Telecommunication revolution that helped India leapfrog from obsolete land-lines to the information age gets only a passing mention. Instead, Simon focuses on corruption of telcom spectrum handouts. The fact that politicians skimmed billions from the deals is not debatable. However, the benefits of wireless revolution, getting rural Indians access to basic communication and on to information age is downplayed in the narrative.
Understanding the intricacies of India's democracy is hard, even for Indians living through the changes and more so for Non Resident Indians like self, who keep abreast of happenings digitally. Simon's readable book is sure to add to the knowledge base, and will be especially useful for those looking for a “political history” of India in the past decade.