ROGUE ELEPHANT by Simon Denyer


Harnessing the Power of India's Unruly Democracy
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An examination of what may be salvaged from the recent squandering of India’s “golden era.”

Former Indian bureau chief for the Washington Post, now based in China, Denyer watched with dismay as the great promise of Indian economic growth unleashed in 1991 derailed due to entrenched obstacles that have continually hindered the country. Corruption, patriarchal values that tolerate the abuse of women, poverty and low education, feeble infrastructure and social services, dynastic politics, and a burgeoning population that will overtake China’s in 2025 and leave a dearth of jobs for young people: Denyer addresses these intractable issues in turn, offering at the same time a glimmer of hope that India’s “insanely complex democracy” might still be able to prevail. Accountability is the key, and the vast majority of Indians, while extremely poor, do vote. From their ranks, some crusading new leaders have emerged—e.g., activists spearheading the landmark Right to Information Act, which helped expose the corruption behind Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s administration, and the small farmers who took on the laws governing land rights. The shabby handling of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010 and Singh’s silence as his colleagues “filled their pockets” exposed India again to the kind of global censure and ridicule it had hoped to banish forever. Yet, promisingly, the scandals emboldened a public outcry, leading to the dogged exposure of Singh’s operations by Comptroller and Auditor Vinod Rai, the galvanizing of the India Against Corruption movement led by the Gandhian figure Anna Hazare, the huge popularity of Arnab Goswami’s hard-hitting TV journalism, the support of whistle-blowers within the bureaucracy and massive protests against government mishandling of rape cases. Denyer even takes on scion Rahul Gandhi and the “culture of sycophancy” that has surrounded him.

Forthright, fair and frank reporting.

Pub Date: June 24th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62040-608-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2014


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