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6 controversial books of the past year

Nikhil Inamdar/Mumbai 21 Apr 14 | 01:48 PM

The past 12 months have seen a series of contentious titles hit and vanish from bookshelves in India. Two have created ripples at the highest echelons of Indian politics for exposing uncomfortable truths about the inefficacies of India’s Prime Minister. Surprisingly they haven’t been banished. At least three others though have sent corporate boardrooms into a tizzy for the lurid details they allegedly contained about corruption and cronyism. They’ve either been withdrawn or their authors and distributors have been left contending with legal notices. And yet another one has been infamously pulped by its publisher for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

Here’s a list of the 6 controversial books that have whipped up a storm in the past 12 months

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1. The Accidental Prime Minister

Author: Sanjaya Baru

This tell-all book by Manmohan Singh’s former media advisor was trashed by the PMO which called it baseless and mischievous and said it smacked of fiction. It also elicited a strong response from the PM’s daughter Upinder Singh, who accused Baru of backstabbing her father and criticized the timing of the release. For several others though it was a reiteration of the widely held belief that Singh was a weak Prime Minister and did not have the word on important government decisions and that the buck actually stopped with UPA chief Sonia Gandhi.

2. Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and other Truths

Author: PC Parakh

Even as the PM was recovering from the blows dealt by Baru’s revelations, Ex-Coal Secretary P C Parakh released his book close on the heels, causing more heartburn for Singh who Parakh held responsible for the coal allocation scam. Parakh, like Baru, alleged in his book that Singh had no authority in the government he was leading and while he had an unquestionable record of personal integrity, he couldn’t rein in ministers like Shibu Soren who made every attempt to block open bidding of mines. The book contains several shocking disclosures about corporates and ministers and how attempts were made at various levels to scuttle bids to bring more transparency to the ministry.

3. The Hindus

Author: Wendy Doniger

Perhaps the most contentious title on this list for the sheer publicity and primetime space this book garnered not just in India but also abroad for Penguin’s decision to pulp it. The publisher took the decision following a 4 year legal process in which it sought to defend the book against objections from petitioners who alleged that it was infected with inaccuracies and biases and sought to overtly sexualize the religion. Penguin came in for severe criticism from its own authors including celebrated writers like Arundhati Roy but defended itself saying draconian Indian laws were to blame for its decision.

4. Sahara: The Untold Story

Author: Tamal Bandyopadhyay

This yet to be released book is having a tough time reaching its readers as the Sahara Group, whose promoter is currently doing jail time, has got an ex-parte stay from the Calcutta High Court barring its publication. It has also filed a defamation suit for a whopping Rs 200 Cr against author-journalist Tamal Bandyopadhyay and his publisher Jaico, alleging that the contents of the book are libellous and targeted at lowering the reputation of Sahara. Excerpts of the book published before the court injunction are in the public domain.

5. The Descent of Air India

Author: Jitendra Bhargava

This edifying account of how India’s national carrier was brought to its knees by former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel was not only withdrawn by Bloomsbury which agreed to destroy all copies of the book, but the publishing giant also tendered an apology to the minister who claimed the allegations against him in the book were totally baseless. Penned by Bhargava – a former executive director who spent several years in senior managerial roles, it had several scandalous titbits on how the airline was systematically mismanaged through the years by politicians and servile officials. The book, though withdrawn from the market is available in the electronic version on Kindle.

6. Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis

Author: Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Subir Ghosh and Jyotirmoy Chaudhuri

The most recent addition to the list, Gas Wars has created a stir just a couple of days after its launch. Reliance Industries is known to have sent a legal notice last week to the authors as well as distributors of the book which has reportedly been self published by its chief author in anticipation of such a reaction. RIL has also asked for an unconditional apology and threatened civil and/or criminal proceedings in the event that its notice is not complied with. The book deals with the controversies around KG-D6 gas pricing for which Mukesh Ambani has come under a concerted volley of attack from various quarters in the recent past including journalists, bureaucrats, the CAG and politicial parties like AAP.

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