‘Charan Singh’s writing helped me understand politics better’

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Jayant Chaudhary
Jayant Chaudhary Photo: Vijay Pandey

|Politicians & Literature|

Jayant Chaudhary | 34 | Uttar Pradesh
MP, Rashtriya Lok Dal

IN A WEEK, I don’t get more than two to three hours to read. Even though I don’t consider myself a prolific reader, I quite enjoy reading about personalities. Growing up, I read my grandfather Chaudhary Charan Singh, whose books helped me understand Indian politics better. Economic Nightmare of India: Its Cause and Cure talks about an alternative economic system that Chaudhary saab staunchly advocated. He spoke of developmental strategies that were not in conjunction with Nehru’s ideas, but were well thought out. If you pick up the book today, you would find strands of what he was saying about different ministries, and the schemes they came up with.

While Nehru advocated corporate farming, Chaudhary saab strongly critiqued it. Today, you have individual landowners who have broken away from the system and now have their own land. Chaudhary saab’s idea was to empower the owner of the land. He worked tirelessly for land consolidation. An Indian Political Life by Paul Brass is a significant study of Chaudhary saab’s politics, his alternative ideas on development and the non-Congress political age of India. Brass spent a lot of time over three decades with my grandfather, and his meticulous research meant that I learned a lot about Chaudhary saab that I didn’t know earlier.

I have read books on Mao Zedong and Adolf Hitler. It is incredibly interesting to read how the latter plunged a continent into war. Reading about Mao is an exploration of his journeys through the countryside and the movements happening across a China torn by war and revolution. His journey from humble origins to becoming Chairman Mao and his connect with the masses established him as a great statesman.

Amartya Sen’s Inequality Reexamined and The Argumentative Indian are important for understanding India’s intellectual pluralism. Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is fascinating as it questions the idea of a singular truth and pushes the boundaries of imagination. In the end, you are presented with two versions of the story and it is up to you to choose which to believe in.

I find my occasional pleasures in reading Rabindranath Tagore and Frederick Forsyth. I remember being stunned by Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. It opened my eyes to the enormous scope of architecture and sparked a personal debate about human emotions and the importance of ethics.