First things first. There can be no doubt that this is the best and most comprehensive book on the Emergency. This will not surprise people who have followed the perceptive and intellectually rigorous work of Christophe Jaffrelot, who has now written India’s First Dictatorship with his former student Pratinav Anil.
Most of us with an interest in politics know the broad outlines of what went on during the Emergency. What is sometimes forgotten is that the phase left us with two lasting legacies. One of them was the acceptance of dynasty as a fact of life in most political parties. Indira Gandhi’s naked promotion of her loutish son Sanjay as her heir apparent set the template for what was to follow.
When Sanjay was killed in a plane crash, Mrs Gandhi simply replaced him with her other son. Political parties all over India followed her lead and turned into family businesses. Soon it was taken for granted that leaders were born (in
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