|Politicians & Literature|
Shivraj Singh Chouhan | 52 | Madhya pradesh
Chief Minister, BJP
TO BE A better statesman, you need to read widely and learn to question. Ideology is, of course, important — for instance, being part of the Jan Sangh is an essential part of me — but it’s also important for me to know about other beliefs, like communism, Islam, etc. It gives me perspective.
One of my earliest influences was Mahatma Gandhi’s My Experiments with Truth, which I read when I was 20. It took me days to read and absorb each page, since there was so much meaning to everything he wrote and every anecdote he shared. I often find myself picking it off the shelf and flipping through its pages. But the book that comes first, and is a part of my inspiration and ideology, is the Bhagwad Gita. No other piece of prose illustrates the intricacies and quandaries of life better than the exchange between Arjun and Krishna.
Another seminal influence, and a man who made me aspire to a selfless devotion to politics, is Swami Vivekananda. His complete works, which I have read a few times, dominate my office. Reading one of the speeches, the one he gave in London, still gives me goosebumps. I credit him with making me a grounded individual. His literary work is the fulcrum of my existence.
My everyday reading is eclectic. I always end up picking up books at airport lounges, the last of which was Barack Obama in his Own Words. He’s an exceptional politician, with a great vision.
Politics forces you to read all sorts of books, the good as well as the bad. I have read Hitler’s Mein Kampf many times, to understand the workings of the mind of someone who exterminated millions. I have read extensively on the history of Europe and the Cold War. I have also enjoyed reading about leaders, especially Marx and Lenin. A book that is a longstanding favourite is Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings.
I’m an amalgam of all these books, and the ideas contained in them. I try to emulate great statesmen like Deendayal Upadhyaya, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Jawaharlal Nehru, who learnt from all that was written before them.