In a recent article, the Financial Times has told the amazing growth in the wealth of a Gujarat businessman since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in May 2014 with subtle details and fairness. There is a paragraph in this article, 'When Mr. Modi took over, he went from Gujarat to the capital New Delhi Mr. Adani's private plane - an open display of friendship, symbolizing his concurrent rise to power. After Mr. Modi came to power, Mr. Adani's gross wealth rose 230 percent to $ 26 billion from the acquisition of government tenders across the country and construction of infrastructure-related projects.
I never met Mr. Modi, but I remembered an incident while reading this article. If I wanted to, I would have met Mr. Adani and I could also work with him. The event was like this. I had a book in September 2013, Gandhi Before India, which focused on his upbringing in the princely state of Kathiawar, his education in imperialist London, and his career as a lawyer and activist in South Africa. At a Literary Festival in Mumbai in December that year, I talked about my new book. After my talks, a young man came to see me and introduced himself as an aspiring writer. He said that he wants to discuss some important subject. However, I had to leave for the airport immediately to go to Bangalore. I gave my email to that young man so that he could write to me and tell me what he wanted to talk about. A few days later, the young man mailed me and told me that he is associated with a consultancy firm and they are working on a project related to the biography of Gautam Adani. He told me that his firm is in talks with Mr. Adani about the biography. He further wrote, a well-known literary agent has indicated that many top publishers are interested in the project.
He wrote that since his firm and the Adani Group are keen on high quality and in-depth work, we are looking for a person who can play the role of 'mentor' and 'mentor' for us in this project. He hoped to become 'mentor' and 'mentor' to me. So he proposed a meeting between Mr. Gautam Adani, a representative of the firm, and me.
Since I have often been to Gujarat, (with research on Mahatma Gandhi), I had some knowledge about Gautam Adani. Friends in Ahmedabad had told me how the Gujarat government had swiftly approved Adani's projects in coastal areas, causing fishermen to be displaced and damage to evergreen forests.
In December 2013, it seemed clear that Mr. Modi would become the next Prime Minister of India. And when that happens, then Gautam Adani's importance will increase. Realizing that he could be more influential and important, he wanted his biography to be published and his advisors wanted this biographer of Gandhi to play an important role in its writing (or pseudo-writing).
An unwanted proposal like a biography of Gautam Adani was not new to me. Many years before I started working on Gandhi, I wrote a biography of British-born anthropologist Verrier Alvin, who was an official knowledge of Indian tribal people. The biography of Verrier Alvin, written in March 1999 from Oxford University Press titled Saving the Civilized, was well received and sold well despite being a scholarship-like work. One or two months after the publication of this book, I got a call from a respected librarian from New Delhi, who I also knew quite a bit. The librarian asked me to know if I would be interested in writing the biography of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee? Mr. Vajpayee's family had asked for some names from him and the librarian was shocked when I saw my book by Alvin. He had already spoken to Oxford University Press and was also keen on the project.
The librarian told me that the book focused on the Prime Minister would not only be of general interest, but there was no doubt that all government offices and sub-offices would buy many copies of it. It will be translated into Hindi for many state governments and all branches of the RSS will buy copies of it. There will be considerable financial gain in return. But I could not agree. The contracted biographer cannot write a fair and independent biography of a politician in power.
Also, Mr. Vajpayee was an intelligent man himself and had his own charm, but I do not like his party BJP, whose Hindu majoritarian brand is completely opposite to Gandhi's inclusive and pluralistic Hinduism. Atal Bihari Vajpayee's biographical writing was the first proposal I received in the form of contracted biographical writing. After I had a book on cricket in 2002, two cricketers, one of whom was still playing and the other had recently retired, asked me if I could help tell their life stories. After my book on the history of independent India came out in 2007, when the son of a Congress leader who had passed away asked me to help him write a book centered on his father, a serving Congress politician wanted me to write a book on him.