What to know about India as Modi is sworn in for a third term

As Narendra Modi becomes prime minister for a third consecutive term, This Week, Those Books offers crucial context and conversation starters on India with three books: stories about nation-building, re-branding and a tea shop boy’s rise. Sign up at https://thisweekthosebooks.com/ and get the post and four-minute podcast the day it drops

Rashmee Roshan Lall
2 min readJun 9, 2024
Image by C Rayban, Unsplash

The Big Story:

India began the world’s largest exercise in electoral democracy on April 19. The numbers were huge:

969 million registered voters, about five times more than America and more than the population of all the countries of Europe combined

2,660 registered political parties 15 million election officials

Seven phases over six weeks

This Week, Those Books:

A magisterial view of modern India’s history.

Parsing the Modi effect.

A novel on the two Indias.

India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy

By: Ramachandra Guha

Publisher: Picador

Year: 2023 (3rd edition)

A highly readable account by one of modern India’s most respected historians. Ramachandra Guha covers India’s testing path from independent nationhood in 1947 — high on idealism and Gandhian philosophy — to the present day when “muscular majoritarianism” rules. He illustrates the difference between India then and now with a 1949 story from Bombay about M. S. Golwalkar, leader of the RSS sectarian Hindu group, and India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

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Making Sense of Modi’s India

By: Various

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Year: 2016

A good primer on the rise of the BJP and its effect on India at home and abroad. Contributors include the Indian-born British economist Lord Meghnad Desai, the BBC’s veteran India-watcher and historian Andrew Whitehead and US-based academic, editor and India-Pakistan peace activist Beena Sarwar.

Full disclosure: Your correspondent, India-born-and-bred, is watching India’s election with intense interest. I wrote a chapter in this book on a non-resident Indian’s view of BJP-ruled India.

The White Tiger

By: Aravind Adiga

Publisher: Atlantic Books

Year: 2008

Aravind Adiga’s debut novel achieved two rare distinctions — it won the Booker Prize and it caused so much angst in India because of its unglamorous portrayal of social inequality that Indians almost forgot to hail him as one of their own. But the novel became a bestseller and then a film starring Priyanka Chopra. The plot is stark…

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Rashmee Roshan Lall

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Writer. My novel 'Pomegranate Peace' is about my year in Afghanistan. I teach journalism at university in London