Abdul Kalam did more than just rehabilitate the presidency. He ennobled it

The late scientist, who would have turned 91 on 15 October, exemplified the authority and dignity that India’s founding personalities envisaged in the country’s highest office.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who would have turned 91 on 15 October, was born on the periphery of a country degraded by centuries of submission to foreign rule. Narendra Modi, eager to affix himself to the memory of Kalam, extolled the late scientist’s service to our country. There was a slickly produced clip, as there always is when the prime minister is involved, that lavished almost equal attention on Modi and Kalam. Worse: Kalam, the person being memorialized, looked like the deuteragonist to Modi’s protagonist.

Modi must rank as the most hagiologized leader alive: there have been two biopics on his …


Kapil Komireddi

Kapil is a journalist, book critic and author. His first book, Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India (2019), was published to critical and commercial acclaim in India, the UK and the US. He has written from South Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East—including Syria, Pakistan and Palestine—and his work appears, among other publications, in The New York Times, The Critic, Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, The Economist, TIME, CNN, The Guardian and Le Monde diplomatique. He is a frequent contributor to The Spectator and an international affairs panellist on Monocle24 radio.