Along with the likes of Shakespeare, Britain has a longstanding literary tradition of a different kind — the explosive political biography, memoir or diary.
Britons can gorge on countless books of their lawmakers who wash their dirty linen — and other people’s linen — in public. The diaries of Alan Clark in the 1980s gave readers a glimpse of the tears and infighting in Margaret Thatcher’s government as well as his own amorous conquests.
The diaries of Alastair Campbell, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s press man, were a sensation, and were followed by the memoirs of Blair himself where he described his relationship with Chancellor Gordon Brown as like being “a couple who loved each other, arguing over whose career should come first”, then calling Brown a “strange guy” with zero emotional intelligence.
But while British parliamentarians willingly divulge what they had for breakfast, in India, the world’s biggest democracy, the opposite is true. Tidbits of news might make for good gossip in the corridors of power in New Delhi, but they rarely get a public airing.
A sizeable chunk of Indian public opinion also says it’s not anyone’s business what their politicians really think or what they get up to in their personal lives. Debate about prominent figures in public life is rare. Witness the furore after the publication of a biography which suggested Mahatma Gandhi was bisexual, which sparked moves to make insulting Gandhi a jailable offence.