When you’re writing about politics, no single event can be viewed in isolation, there’s always a context.’ says Vir Sanghvi

‘When you’re writing about politics, no single event can be viewed in isolation, there’s always a context.’ says Vir Sanghvi, one of India’s most prolific journalists in Mandate: Will of the People
Q. Why did you choose a slim version of Mandate when you might have elaborated the incidents?

I wanted this to be a book that even people with no real interest in Indian political history would want to read. There are many big, fat books on Indian politics and history. But I can think of only a few history books that have reached out to a wider audience. I thought a slim volume would be less daunting for readers who had no previous interest in political history.

Q. In the book you mentioned, Sonia Gandhi comes out as a mystery woman and Rahul Gandhi failed to create an impression in the 2014 election campaign. Do you feel Congress needs to sideline itself from the Gandhi leadership?

Yes, Rahul fought a very bad campaign. And Sonia remains an enigma. But is that enough reason for the Congress to throw out the Gandhis? It’s the Congress’ own decision to make. And so far at least, the party seems solidly united behind Sonia and Rahul.

Q. Do you have plans to revive the television series even after grand success of the book?

Yes, there is talk of another historical series but it is too early to talk about it.

Q. Mandate cruises like a short documentary spanning over 45 years of Indian politics (more or less). What are you suggestive of as further or in-detail read?

It’s actually not a very short documentary. The TV series went on for several hours. My suggestion to people who want to know more about the events in the book or to see the characters come alive is that they see the show. The episodes are all on the net.

Q. What do you want the youngsters to take from the book? Somewhere I felt disappointed after learning the truths about our political leaders.

Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat the same mistakes. You can’t really understand the present, let alone plan for the future, if you are not familiar with the past. I only wanted people to realise that there is a context to nearly everything that is happening today. Yes, some people will be disillusioned. But if we learn from experience, then we are better equipped to face the future.

Q. Your book enlightened me with life and actions of many politicians. Politics has been about manipulators and power hungry people. Do you have any politicians to name from the present lot who only have good intentions about the country?

I think you’re being unkind. Many of the politicians featured in the book were not motivated solely by the lust for power. There are always good politicians and bad politicians. It’s the same today.

Q. Many readers complained (for the lack of a better word) that the book hand-braked just before the 2014 mandate – Can we presume to have more coming with an extensive yet compact coverage of the Modi phenomenon?

I think it’s too early to judge Modi as Prime Minister. Any book about Narendra Modi that will stand the test of time can only be written towards the end of his term.

Q. Lastly, your advice for budding writers, mostly squaring on investigative journalism.

I really am nobody to give advice to other writers. All I will say is this – if you are writing about politics, then remember that no single event can ever be viewed in isolation. There is always a context. And the problem with so much of Indian journalism today is that we either ignore the
context or that journalists are not even aware of it. Understand the context and things will begin to make sense.

The questions in this interview have been a collaboration of Writersmelon team and readers. 

Vir Sanghvi is an Indian journalist and author. He was born in London in 1956. He graduated from Brasenose College, Oxford. He was working for India Today, and when the magazine wanted to start India’s first city-focused magazine, Bombay, it chose Vir Sanghvi to run it. At the young age of 22, Sanghvi became the editor of the new magazine and made it a success in no time. He has also anchored shows on Doordarshan and NDTV. He is currently the Editorial Director of the Hindustan Times.
The book is available on Flipkart, Amazon and Infibeam


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