President's book has quiet online launch

President's book has quiet online launch

President Pranab Mukherjee's book, caught pre-publication in a marketing controversy because its publishers signed an exclusive deal with an online retailer, had a quiet launch Thursday, the president's 79th birthday.

The book, "The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years" (Rupa), was released on by Rupa, which had  created a publishing controversy by signing a deal with the global online retailer, thereby giving it exclusive rights to sell the book for 21 days, a move that angered traditional publishers.

Mukherjee was expected to give a media statement to coincide with the book release but there was no word on it from Rashtrapati Bhavan till late in the evening.

In the preface to the 321-page book, Mukherjee, who has served as finance minister, defence minister, external affairs minister and commerce minister, among many other responsibilities during his long years in government and as a senior leader of the Congress party, called "The Dramatic Decade..." "the story of a boy who moves from a flickering lamp in a remote village in West Bengal to the glittering chandeliers of India's national capital - a long journey, marked by some successes, as also some disappointments and fascinating encounters."

According to the publisher, Mukherjee has drawn on extracts largely from his personal diary, which he has meticulously maintained all through his five decades in public life, and his own almost photographic memory for events, situations and even dates, to chronicle the fascinating decade of the 1970s and early 1980s, including the crucial emergency period, leading upto the assassination of Mrs Gandhi in 1984.

"The book focuses on one of the most fascinating periods in the life of this nation, the decade of the 1970s. This was when India found itself engaging with the true meaning of democracy. The nation displayed its commitment to liberty by extending full support to East Pakistan's struggle for Independence," said an official statement from the publisher.

Mukherjee also revealed that he had "lost substantial segments" of material "when my house (Mirati village in Birbhum district of West Bengal) got flooded" but "I was also fortunately able to recollect and rewrite large segments of the diary."

This is not the first time Mukherjee has penned a book. In the past, he has written books like "Beyond Survival: Emerging Dimensions of Indian economy" (1984), "Off the Track" (1987), "Challenge Before the Nation" (1992) and "Saga of Struggle and Sacrifice" (1992).

There are expected to be at least two more sequels to "The Dramatic Decade...", the first of a trilogy, leading up to 2012.

Mukherjee became President of India  on July 25, 2012, but those interested in his thoughts and views during his presidential years will have to wait for a book that he might write only when he stops being president, sources close to him say.

While the book itself has drawn considerable interest because of the author, the marketing deal has left bookstore owners fuming over the "monopolistic" and "unfair" approach adopted by the publisher.

"The book is by the president and should have been made available at bookstores across India. It is the right of the people to read what the president has written, especially when it touches a delicate topic like the emergency," Charan Singh Rawat, sales manager of Jain Book Store, told IANS.

"It is the first three weeks that are important for sales. We would lose a big chunk of sales," he added. Other publishers echoed similar sentiments.

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