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Modi: The Challenge of 2024 by Minhaz Merchant - A balanced and insightful analysis of India’s PM

Modi: The Challenge of 2024

Author: Minhaz Merchant

Genre: Political Commentary

Published by Amaryllis Publishing ( An Imprint of Manjul Publishing House)

Pages: 429

MRP: Rs. 899/-

Acknowledgement: Thank you @amaryllispublishing for a review copy of the book.

Minhaz Merchant is a veteran journalist and author who has written several books on Indian politics and history. He is known for his impartial and objective reporting, which is rare in today’s polarized media landscape. He does not follow any politician on social media, not even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who once followed him on ‘X’. He believes that journalistic neutrality is not only a matter of principle, but also a matter of perception.

In his latest book, Modi: The Challenge of 2024, Merchant does not attempt to write a biography of Modi, but rather a critical assessment of his two terms as prime minister and the challenges he faces in the next general election. He calls 2024 “the year of reckoning” and “the battle for India”, as it will determine the future course of the country’s politics, economy, and foreign policy.

The book is divided into ten sections and 31 chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of Modi’s governance, achievements, failures, and personality. Merchant draws on his personal interactions with Modi, as well as his extensive research and analysis of various sources, to present a comprehensive and nuanced picture of the man who has dominated Indian politics for the past decade.

Merchant begins the book with his first meeting with Modi in 2012, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. He describes Modi’s eyes as “unflinching” and his gaze as “penetrating”. He also reveals that Modi had asked him to write a biography of him, but he declined, suggesting instead a foreign author, Andy Marino, who eventually wrote Narendra Modi: A Political Biography.

Merchant then proceeds to examine Modi’s rise to power, his electoral strategy, his economic policies, his social initiatives, his foreign relations, his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, his ideological vision, his relationship with the RSS, his media management, his popularity among the masses, his potential successors, and his comparison with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Merchant does not shy away from praising Modi’s achievements, such as his digital transformation of India, his infrastructure development, his welfare schemes, his surgical strikes, his diplomatic outreach, his personal integrity, and his understanding of the Indian psyche. He also does not hesitate to criticize Modi’s shortcomings, such as his centralization of power, his expansion of government, his demonetization blunder, his mishandling of the second wave of Covid-19, his intolerance of dissent, his promotion of sycophancy, and his failure to curb communal violence.

Merchant argues that Modi’s success in winning two consecutive Lok Sabha elections with a thumping majority is largely due to his ability to connect with the common people and convince them of his good intentions. He says that Modi has a “rishi-like” quality, derived from his teenage years of wandering in the Himalayas and living with monks and sadhus. He also says that Modi is a pragmatist, who adapts to changing circumstances and does not adhere to any rigid ideology.

However, Merchant warns that Modi cannot take his popularity for granted, as he faces several challenges in the run-up to 2024. He says that the opposition parties, especially the Congress, may forge a strong alliance to counter the BJP’s dominance. He also says that the BJP may suffer from complacency, arrogance, and internal rifts, as well as the anti-incumbency factor. He says that Modi will have to deliver on his promises of economic growth, job creation, social justice, and national security, or else face the wrath of the voters.

Merchant concludes the book by predicting that Modi will win the 2024 election, but with a reduced margin, and that he will step down in 2029, after 15 years as prime minister. He says that Modi will leave behind a mixed legacy, with some remarkable achievements and some glaring failures. He also says that Modi will be remembered as one of the most influential and controversial leaders in India’s history, who changed the country’s politics and society in profound ways.

Modi: The Challenge of 2024 by Minhaz Merchant is a well-written and well-researched book that offers a balanced and insightful analysis of India’s most powerful leader. It is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the current and future state of Indian politics and society.

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