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  • Aadil Belim

Encounters with Politicians by Anil Swarup

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Politics and policy have always fascinated me. Though I didn't pursue politics, for a while, becoming a bureaucrat was my dream. During that time, my focus wasn't just on academics, but also on understanding the inner workings of government.


One incident from my youth perfectly captures this. At 17, in India, I became fixated on the IAS, the elite civil service. The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), the training ground for IAS officers, seemed like a mythical place. I craved knowledge about the role of a District Magistrate (DM). So strong was this curiosity that on a restless night in January 2015, I decided to act.

Skipping school, I walked 14 kilometers to the collector's office, determined to meet the DM of Rajkot district, Ms. Manisha Chandra. My naiveté is quite amusing now, but that zeal secured me a meeting. It was my first encounter with a civil servant, and it sparked a lifelong interest in interacting with such figures.

Fast forward to today, my interest has expanded to politicians as well. This book review combines these passions. The book offers a unique perspective: real experiences from a bureaucrat who has interacted with prominent Indian politicians for decades.

The book delves into encounters with various political figures. One particularly intriguing chapter details Anil's (the author) experience with Dharam Gaj Sharma. This incident highlights the complex dynamic between children of politicians and bureaucrats, where fear of reprisal can sometimes prevent officials from upholding the law.

Another chapter that grabbed my attention was Anil's perspective on Prime Ministers. Reading about his awe of Indira Gandhi's aura and his work with Dr. Manmohan Singh in the coal department provided valuable insight into both the leader and the intricacies of bureaucratic functioning.


Of course, learning about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's work ethic was especially fascinating. The book portrays a leader who actively solicits ideas from bureaucrats and prioritizes swift implementation. This challenged my preconceived notions based solely on his public persona. The book revealed a more hands-on and results-oriented leader than the one I had perceived through media portrayals.

The book also shattered some preconceived notions. Giani Zail Singh, often portrayed as reckless, emerged as a more nuanced figure. Conversely, the portrayal of K.R. Narayanan and Pranab Mukherjee aligned with what I already knew about them.

Significantly, the book doesn't shy away from the ugly side of politics. Anil's honest portrayal of corrupt practices and the self-serving demands of some politicians provides a sobering counterpoint to the idealism.

For anyone interested in the complex world of government, this book offers a compelling perspective. It's a captivating read that combines real-life stories with a glimpse into the inner workings of Indian politics and bureaucracy.

1 Comment

Apr 29

Interesting stories I feel, I will read this book

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