All Political Alleys Via 24 Akbar Road
24 Akbar Road is undoubtedly an enjoyable read that takes you to the ride through the corridors of power. Well said by Rajdeep Sardesai “A political thriller”. A guide too handy describing a comprehensive history of the people behind the fall and rise of the Congress. All political roads to power and the alleys leading to the Parliament pass through this political landmark. This book brings back the sepia memories of yesteryears’ political ups and downs—how this building houses the relics of Congress like how this illegally constructed building with eight rooms expanded to thirty four.
Stephenian Rashid touched all vantage points with prominence reflecting not just the equations that keep changing the political, social and economic milieu but also how the Congress party has stayed one step ahead by constantly reinventing and revamping itself to stay co-ordinated with people from different walks of life. Kidwai depicts the Congress with its ideology that does not seem to change and also how the Congress’ concept of continuity with change has helped the party tide over many crises.
Over the years, the grand old party has developed an ideology of its own journey through many turbulent eras. This book tracks the story of the contemporary Congress—its key characters, its ideology, its failures and its successes, in the years after the Emergency. It’s a telling tale of those who visited this landmark these years, how they have risen to the zenith and fallen from the sheen and the factors affecting their different positioning and trajectories. He wrapped all irrespective of who’s who on 24 Akbar Road from a backseat to the driver’s seat and from Indira Gandhi to Rahul Gandhi, how they have steered this titanic ship through the choppy sea.
The author explains the significance of the book particularly that strata of society that want to delve deeply into the Congress party and at the same time this is important to everyone wanting to know politics and political family grown manifold these decades. Flipping through the pages one comes across Sanjay Gandhi’s life and his tragic end in a plane crash, just ten days before Indira Gandhi appointed him General Secretary of AICC.
Kidwai neatly juxtaposes every aspect of the Congress political journey with all subtle facts. He describes immaculately the assassination day of Indira Gandhi, how she hugged her fourteen years grandchild Rahul and whispered in his ears to take charge in case of any unlikely eventuality, how Satwant Singh triggered more bullets into an already inert prime minister after her body was already sprayed with 31 bullets, it’s too true to believe the book has in its leaves.
The book further speaks of Sonia, the next successor to AICC, after Rajiv’s assassination why she couldn’t refuse to join the party and how PV Narasimha Rao took charge of the AICC and sought to lead without involving the Gandhi family. But when Rao’s end came on December 23, 2004, his dead body wasn’t even allowed to be brought inside 24 Akbar Road.
Though Rasheed has seen the Congress at extremely close quarters I would rather he took pick a line or two from RK Dhawan, Makhan Lal Fotedar and Ahmed Patel. But the hard work he poured into this book deserves attention, particularly those juicy and secret talks of top notch that remain afloat in the Congress circle. The book also reveals how the Congress got its ‘hand’ symbol and gives too much credit to Buta Singh. The author tends to be cautious while talking about Maneka Gandhi but at the same time he is rather lavish in his praise for Sonia Gandhi. He is a biographer of Sonia. He relies on Harish Khare and Vir Sanghvi to substantiate many of his assumptions.
Squeezing in a word that Kidwai’s effort needs to be appreciated, 24 Akbar Road meets all lanes leading ahead…a little farther.
By Syed Wazid Ali