Can sports writers pen biographies about film stars? The answer is Yes. Many seasoned cricket writers have written books on Bollywood, subjects stretching from Amitabh Bachchan to Rekha. And there have been top-class editors who have been fascinated by actresses like Meena Kumari and written her memoir. And I remember once how Doordarshan, then run by some sensible people, picked up Sunil Gavaskar and Kamal Haasan - he was not a politician then - to discuss about cricket and movies. What was interesting was Gavaskar talked about movies and Kamal Haasan talked about politics. It was a great show, I wonder if anyone would do a similar experiment. Now seasoned anchors in news channels do all the interviews of top stars, and stars don't ask stars about life on India’s 350-odd news channels.
I was not surprised by Gautam Chintamani’s biography of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, aptly titled Rajneeti, now a title of a political show in a top business channel. I was happy to read a totally different perspective from this seasoned Bollywood chronicler.
Singh has a political career spanning over almost five decades, and is considered a very principled person. Many consider him a root man, but there are others who call him a bridge builder because he constantly strives hard to find common ground across party lines and brings everyone to the table. His image of lending shoulders with soldiers to carry the coffins of slaughtered jawans from Kashmir is remembered by many.
Singh was born into a family of farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Chandauli district, and went on to secure a master's degree in physics, acquiring first division results from the Gorakhpur University. Way back in 1964, Singh was a simple volunteer in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Nagpur-based right wing think tank that currently has many crucial assignments on hand, the most important being to expand the base of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in West Bengal because there is a state election to be won in 2022.
Singh worked hard, listened to his friends and adversaries and eventually rose to the chair of the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, he had also been a Union Education minister, Agriculture Minister, Home Minister and two-time BJP president.
The book narrates vividly how Singh worked very closely with Narendra Modi and helped his party win the 2014 elections which propelled the Big Boss from Gujarat as the nation’s Prime Minister.
The book explains why Singh is a man of principles; he opposed to his son Pankaj Singh's candidature in 2007 elections because he was then the party president and he did not want his son to get any special treatment. Remember it was Kalyan Singh who had proposed Pankaj Singh’s candidature from the Chiraigaon seat in Varanasi. Yet, the father did not relent and prevented his son from getting the ticket. The book says it was Nitin Gadkari who as the party president proposed Pankaj’s name as a general secretary in Uttar Pradesh, only to be turned down by Singh Sr. Eventually, it was during the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections that Pankaj Singh’s career commenced after BJP national president Amit Shah gave him the ticket from Noida.
Chintamani explains why Singh is a man of few words and why those words are laced with gold. Singh, claims the book, cannot be seen on each and every platform but he works very closely with the top brass without being in the limelight. He is a very calm politician with a unique ability to connect with the masses. Singh, claims the book, is not worried about the perception in political circles about him. He knows what he needs to do, he knows the media in India often breaks or makes such images but such man-made impressions are rarely everlasting.
Such politicians are rare, says Chintamani. Like Singh, he also made a very, very definitive point. A very good read.