Picador India will publish a two-volume definitive biography of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in April and December 2023, with Picador UK publishing a single volume in December to mark his 100th birth anniversary.
The title of the biography has not been revealed.
Charming and sensitive, secretive and vacillating, detached yet quietly ambitious, Vajpayee was a man of unusual gifts and some dangerously consequential flaws.
He made an unintended entry into politics in 1948 as the underground organiser of the RSS, which had been banned for creating an atmosphere in which Mahatma Gandhi was murdered. In 1957, he became the first RSS swayamsevak to win a seat in the Lok Sabha. Soon he grew popular for his fiery speeches and maudlin poetry, bridging the contrasting worldviews of Jawaharlal Nehru and V.D. Savarkar.
In the first non-Congress government at the centre, the Janata coalition of 1977-79, he proved himself to be a successful Foreign Minister. As Prime Minister towards the end of his six-decade-long career, he tested nuclear designs, liberalised the economy, and steered India to a multi-party democracy. But his years in office also helped the RSS become mainstream, even respectable. A man of varied interests and poor health, Vajpayee’s tumultuous career was matched by a complicated private life.
Mixing new archival sources in India, the US and the UK with hundreds of detailed interviews, Abhishek Choudhary’s authoritative biography is the first major inquiry into the psychology of the most glamorised and enigmatic Indian politician in recent history.
In detailing Vajpayee’s intimate relationship with the Sangh Parivar, Choudhary also paints a revealing emotional and psychological portrait of Hindu revivalism.
The biography was acquired at auction from Shruti Debi of The Debi Agency.
Commenting on the acquisition, Choudhary said: “Picador has previously published books that have profoundly shaped my life. It’s a massive honour to work with Teesta Guha Sarkar and Georgina Morley to publish my debut in India and the UK.”
Georgina Morley, Publishing Director, Picador UK, said: “We are delighted to be bringing Abhishek Choudhary’s fascinating, vividly written and meticulously researched account” of Vajpayee’s life and career to British readers.
Teesta Guha Sarkar, Editorial Director, Pan Macmillan India, described the book as a “magisterial account” of Vajpayee’s life and times that “is also one of the finest biographies I have read in recent years. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to not only publish these corrective volumes but also launch an exceptional new talent.”
Abhishek Choudhary studied economics in Delhi and Chennai, and has worked since 2010 in development (Pratham, IGC-Bihar) and journalism (Governance Now, Hoot, Newslaundry). His writing has appeared in a range of publications, including Anandabazar Patrika, Caravan, Deccan Herald, EPW, Himal Southasian, HuffPost India and Indian Express. He was awarded the New India Foundation fellowship in 2017 to research Vajpayee’s life. During the winter of 2021-22, he was a scholar-in-residence at the International Centre Goa.