India After Gandhi: The History Of The World's Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha
The narrative never flags. Historical figures are brought to life and history re-enacted in its pages. It makes you appreciate the greatness of Gandhi and Nehru as well as India as it is today.
The leaders may have shrunken in stature, the country pulled in different directions by political parties representing various groups and communities, but democracy has deepened, not weakened, says Guha. The coalition governments that have come and gone over the past two decades are a sign that the country today can be governed only by consensus. No one can do another Indira Gandhi.
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She was Nehru's daughter in her secular outlook. Nobody can say she discriminated against any community though she was forced to fight Sikh separatists and sent the army after them into the Golden Temple, their holiest shrine, for which she paid with her life – killed by two of her Sikh bodyguards.
But, apart from their secular outlook, father and daughter had little in common. Nehru respected democracy, the independence of the media and the judiciary. The Congress party in his time was also more independent, run by powerful politicians who did not necessarily listen to him though he was the prime minister and their leader.
Nehru had friends even among his political opponents. Guha writes in absorbing detail about the countless actions taken by Gandhi and Nehru to keep India secular. He makes you admire them simply by describing what they did.