This book is a significant contribution to the study of BJP in power. With the BJP making a determined effort to return to power in the next general elections, scholarly interest on how the BJP governed the country from 1998 to 2004 should naturally focus on whether the initial apprehensions in the media when BJP formed its first durable Government in 1998 were justified.
Although the stability of the BJP-led NDA Government was in doubt every time when it was formed – first in 1996, (when it formed Government for 13 days) then in 1998, and in 1999 – the Vajpayee Government survived the multi-party coalition experiment successfully. Along with the stability question with which it was concerned throughout its tenure, the NDA Government was also accountable for its omissions and commissions, especially for its pursuit of the so-called hidden agenda of the Sangh Parivar. That is why the decisions taken by the various Ministries during those six years must receive scholarly scrutiny, beyond the superficial journalistic account, in order to make an assessment of what an ideological party can do or cannot do while in power.
John McGuire, Professor of Modern Indian History, Curtin University of Technology, Australia, and Ian Copland, Associate Professor of History and School of Historical Studies, Monash University, Australia have edited this volume. Contributors include Prabhat Patnaik (Economic Policy), Douglas Hill (Food Security, Governance, and Rural Development), Greg Bailey (Rewriting of Indian History), Salim Lakha (sifting economic agenda), Mushirul Hasan (Text Books), Edwina Mason (Politics of Hindu nationalism), Brian Shoesmith and Norel Mecklai (Hindu Rashtra), Robin Jeffrey (media revolution), Rita Manchanda (Hindu public discourse), and Achin Vanaik (foreign policy perspectives). There are separate essays on Kashmir, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well.
While these independent essays by these specialists will most certainly offer the much-needed insights into the functioning of the Government, there is indeed need for a chronologically backed scholarly account of the BJP in power, focusing on the issues of governance, that is, the legislative output in Parliament, the controversies and compromises which marked the executive decisions, and the state of independent institutions such as judiciary and election commission, apart from the dynamics of party-Government relationship. The book has no chapters on these themes, which only shows there is a void which can be filled by interested scholars.