Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2020 jointly awarded to Jairam Ramesh, Amit Ahuja's works

The Prize, established in 2018, recognises and celebrates excellence in non-fiction writing about Independent India by writers of all nationalities.

FP Staff December 10, 2020 13:26:10 IST
Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2020 jointly awarded to Jairam Ramesh, Amit Ahuja's works

The New India Foundation (NIF) Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay Book Prize was on Thursday, 10 December, awarded jointly to Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California Amit Ahuja for his book Mobilizing the Marginalised: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements, and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh for A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of VK Krishna Menon.

The 2020 winners will share the prize money of Rs 15 lakhs for their respective books and will each receive the Book Prize trophy.

They were selected from a shortlist of six books dealing with modern Indian history across diverse genres. The six-member jury panel that chose the winners was chaired by political scientist and author Niraja Gopal Jayal, along with historian and author Ramachandra Guha, entrepreneur and author Nandan Nilekani, historian and author Srinath Raghavan, historian and author Nayanjot Lahiri, and Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, Teamlease Services.

The Jury citation about the winning books says:

"Mobilizing the Marginalized: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements (Oxford University Press) by Amit Ahuja is an outstanding first book by a young scholar. Through extensive field research in four states, Ahuja unravels an intriguing puzzle: why is it that Dalit ethnic parties perform poorly in states where their social mobilisation has historically been strong, yet perform well in states where such mobilisation has historically been weak? He also shows how the social mobilisation of Dalits, dividing their support across parties, results in superior welfare outcomes than when they vote as a bloc for one ethnic party. This is an elegantly written and accessible work of scholarship that richly illuminates the relationship between social movements and political parties in redeeming the promise of Indian democracy for marginalised groups.”

A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of VK Krishna Menon (Penguin Random House) by Jairam Ramesh is an engaging biography of an important supporting player in Indian politics, whose career spanned decades of political work, first in Britain and later in India. The book provides fascinating insights into the personal and public life of Krishna Menon: his friendships and animosities, his foibles and strengths, and the multiple facets of his life as editor, publisher, lawyer, councillor, propagandist, diplomat, and cabinet minister. Ramesh chronicles Menon’s relentless campaign for India’s freedom in Britain and the ups and downs of his close relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru. The opprobrium surrounding his role in the disastrous (from an Indian point of view) conflict with China in 1962 have tended to obscure from public memory his diplomatic achievements, especially his celebrated performance at the United Nations in the 1950s, and this book places on record the evidence on all these issues without partisan judgment. Ramesh has delved deep into new archival materials to produce a compelling portrait of a brilliant, complicated, and controversial man, whose public life came to a rather tragic end.”

The Prize, established in 2018, recognises and celebrates excellence in non-fiction writing about Independent India by writers of all nationalities.

The 2019 Prize was awarded to political and modern Indian history scholar Ornit Shani for her book How India Became Democratic: Citizenship and the Making of the Universal Franchise, published by Penguin Random House India.

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