|Politicians & Literature|
Digvijaya Singh | 65 | Madhya Pradesh
General Secretary, Congress
LIKE EVERY POLITICIAN in India, I have read and been both moved and influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s My Experiments with Truth and Pandit Nehru’s The Discovery of India. If every politician hasn’t read these two books, then they should do so. Immediately. Another book that is very important to me is Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s Sanskriti ke Char Adhyay. Dinkar was a splendid poet and generally a distinguished man of letters. He makes the point — a point that can be made often enough — that India is different from most of the world’s other nations because what holds us together is our difference. Diversity is not a cliché and we must not take for granted how hard we have to keep working to maintain unity, to remind ourselves that India is an idea we all hold dear to our hearts and tend to that idea rather than neglect it blithely, believing it will survive that neglect.
You can see from the three names above that the nationalism of the Independence period was the biggest driving force in my life and still informs my political values. My political philosophy is that Gandhian and Nehruvian values of socialism, and above all secularism, are important touchstones. I believe these three books are essential to understanding the foundational ideals of India. Basically, what India is and what it stands for.
From a personal point of view, the book that has most influenced my personal behaviour and my way of life is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. In my 40-year political career, I have lost count of how many times I have used one or the other of Carnegie’s tips. I have read the book cover to cover at least five times. Some people may scoff at this admission. Carnegie, though his book has sold something like 15 million copies since it came out in 1936, is not considered very sophisticated reading. But my career is testament to the fact that his advice works. Politics in a democracy is all about personal relationships with your colleagues and your constituents — winning friends and influencing people is the job description.
An author I have read, someone who has written dozens of books, said that 85 percent of people who buy books don’t actually read them. I’m happy to admit to the few books I have read and how deeply I have been influenced by those few books. Reading is necessary for politicians but there’s so little time. My iPad is full of books I haven’t yet read or have only half-read, the Baburnama among them. I should make finishing the Baburnama my New Year’s resolution.