Earlier this year, Udipi Rajago­pa­la­charya Ananthamurthy (URA), the Jnanpith award-winning Kannada novelist, educationist and public intellectual, had declared that he would not live in an India run by Narendra Modi. This had provoked lacerating responses from right-wing Hindutva supporters. URA breathed his last on August 22, 2014, before the Modi government completed 100 days in office. Chandan Gowda of the Azim Premji University had interviewed the litterateur for an eight-part Doordarshan series, telecast in June and July. It is possibly URA’s last major interview. Excerpts:

UR AnanthamurthyWhat parts of the Gandhian legacy are important for you?

His suspicion of the modern world system is one. The modern world system will destroy the earth, will destroy the sky, will destroy the balance bet­ween nature and man because it is very greedy. Gandhi’s rejection was sometimes extreme. But extremes can open the gate of heaven, that’s what they have said. So Gandhi exaggerated at times, but in the main you know that. He used trains all the time. But he said we could live without trains. He rightly feared centralisation. Gandhi was also friendly towards nature. There are many valuable Gandhian ideas. The whole idea that small is beautiful comes from Gandhi. So he wanted such ideas to govern the whole country. He didn’t like big buildings.

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GIRISH_KARNADJnanpith award winning director and playwright Girish Karnad suddenly found himself in the eye of a storm when the Times of India quoted him as giving a good chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even though he had earlier been a strong critic of the BJP leader and then Gujarat chief minister.

TOI quoted him as saying, “Narendra Modi is our Prime Minister, and we should accept it. I had expressed reservations about the post-Godhra carnage in Gujarat when Modi was chief minister. But after that, there have been no incidents to bring him a bad name. He has provided good governance.”

Neutrality is the most vulgar political position, especially when the most bigoted partisans are calling the shots and you want to play along, and even host them, writes S Anand in this open letter to Prakriti Foundation, Chennai

“Since I have known you personally, and since you have supported Navayana’s work earlier, I thought I should keep an open mind and talk to you. Did you really see merit in this book? And that’s why I called you. I just wanted to ask you why you were doing this.  I am sure you had thought this through, but I still wanted to hear you out. Your defence shocked me more. You said, this was just a “marketing tactic” and you said you were doing this so that more people come to your Amdavadi Snack House in Chennai, and eat your dhoklas and theplas. “If Modi’s poetry will bring them in, so be it.” I could not believe this. I felt angry and even betrayed.

New non-fiction books by the novelists Arundhati Roy and Rana Dasgupta examine India’s troubled relationship with capitalism and the blurred links between political and business elites: The New Statesman

arundhati_roy_20140310.jpgMidway through India’s recent election, I watched Meera Sanyal talk at a campaign event about a crisis in her country’s system of capitalism. It seemed an odd topic, given that Sanyal spent almost her entire professional career in finance. But late last year she quit her job as a senior banker, joined the newly formed anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (or “common man”) Party (AAP), and announced plans to run for parliament in the south of Mumbai, the financial capital.

SinglemanRereading the latest political biography of the Bihar chief minister in the middle of a contentious general ele­c­tion prompts some serious reflection on the nature of leadership. It is said that the one who leads the orchestra must turn his back to the crowd. But politics is unlike conducting an orchestra and a political leader, more often than not, swims with the tide. Nitish Kumar comes across as a leader who ignores the crowd, rising above it and often swimming against the tide. Does that make him a good or a bad leader, the reader is left wondering.

Noted Kannada literary personality and Jnanpith awardee UR Ananthamurthy has been given police security after the writer claimed that he was getting threat calls and was also sent two one way tickets to Karachi by a group called the NaMo brigade. Ananthamurthy had gone on record to say that he would leave the country if Narendra Modi becomes the Prime Minister.

With the rise of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi culminating in this week’s election, Pankaj Mishra asks if the world’s largest democracy is entering its most sinister period since independence: The Guardian

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), shows his ink-marked finger to his supporters after casting his vote at a polling station during the seventh phase of India's general election in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.

Narendra Modi shows his inked finger after casting his vote in Ahmedabad. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters
In A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth writes with affection of a placid India’s first general election in 1951, and the egalitarian spirit it momentarily bestowed on an electorate deeply riven by class and caste: “the great washed and unwashed public, sceptical and gullible”, but all “endowed with universal adult suffrage”. India’s 16th general election this month, held against a background of economic jolts and titanic corruption scandals, and tainted by the nastiest campaign yet, announces a new turbulent phase for the country – arguably, the most sinister since its independence from British rule in 1947. Back then, it would have been inconceivable that a figure such as Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist chief minister of Gujarat accused, along with his closest aides, of complicity in crimes ranging froman anti-Muslim pogrom in his state in 2002 to extrajudicial killings, and barred from entering the US, may occupy India’s highest political office.