Book review- 2014: The elections that changed India

The future historians (oxymoronish term) are keenly awaiting to write tomes and tomes on this 2014 election. We still do not know how things will pan out as it is just one year old.

Some accounts have already started and this one by Rajdeep Sardeasai is an intriguing read. The eminent journalist has lost quite a clout from his Mount Everest days especially after the fight in NY. But nevertheless one cannot take away years of his journalism experience and election tracking which he tries to pour into the book.

The author upfront says that this is not a scholarly account but a journalistic one. So don’t expect some neat theories and empirical data to validate them. The book is just like a journalist’s life – breezy and anecdotal.

The focus of the book is 2014 elections. In each chapter Mr Sardesai tries to pick up some party, some individual and eventually tries to bring them to the common theme – what were they doing before the 2014 verdict and how they were campaigning.  In this pursuit of 2014 verdict, Sardesai comes with some interesting anecdotes and stories around the 2014 election. We have seen most of the events so there is nothing new. But then this is the purpose of the book as well – to bring all these events in one book. Given he is a journalist and has vast experience, there are bound to be biases. But overall he tries to put things in perspective and does not spare anyone really.

The book tells you how well managed and focused the campaign was for BJP and listless for Congress and others. The way various resources were tapped into is interesting. One has to especially mention technology which played a decisive role in these elections. It was ironical to see a swadesi party like BJP taking on technology so well and Congress with so many erudite leaders were just no match.

One would have hoped that along with the main theme, Rajdeep also explain some basics of news reporting. But this is missing from the book. It would have brought some interesting insights from the industry which otherwise tells you about how other things work. The author does get into darker insights of breaking news and exit poll phenomenon which has made quality news coverage a thing of the past. This obviously has deeper ramifications as we are reduced to a soundbyte society. This aspect also was captured really well by BJP which tried to capture all possible soundbytes through a slick electoral campaign.

Overall, a nice breezy read with little expectations. I am sure more such journo accounts will follow as such was the impact of this election. And then eventually it will be over to historians and polity scholars to get into details..

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