A Promised Land: Indian lawyer 'sues' Barack Obama for insulting leaders in memoir

A senior lawyer from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has filed a petition before a court seeking a formal complaint against for “insulting” the country’s politicians in his book A Promised Land.

The lawyer, Gyan Prakash Shukla, filed the civil suit on Thursday, demanding police open up an initial charge sheet – known as a First Information Report (FIR) – against Mr Obama for allegedly insulting and humiliating Congress party politicians Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh.  

The case has been granted a hearing and scheduled for 1 December in Lalganj Civil Court.

The memoir by the former president has made headlines in India and caused ripples in the political sphere for its less-than-flattering description of Mr Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty.

Mr Obama gave vivid accounts of his meetings with Indian political leaders during his first term in office, when the now-opposition Congress party was in power in Delhi.

The Uttar Pradesh lawyer objected to passages in the memoir that stated Sonia Gandhi chose Manmohan Singh to be India’s 13th prime minister as he posed no threat to her son Rahul Gandhi, who is described as “nervous” and eager to impress in the book.

“Rahul Gandhi has a nervous, unformed quality about him as if he were a student who’d done the coursework and was eager to impress the teacher but deep down lacked either the aptitude or the passion to master the subject,” Mr Obama writes. He did say that he “seemed smart and earnest”, however.

On Mr Singh, Mr Obama says he came across as “wise, thoughtful and scrupulously honest”, and as a “self-effacing technocrat who’d won the people’s trust not by appealing to their passions but bringing about higher living standards and maintaining a well-earned reputation for not being corrupt”.

Ms Gandhi, the former president writes, was a “striking woman” who spent more time listening than speaking. He suggests her power derives from “a shrewd and forceful intelligence”. 

While the comments were largely described as praise in most media coverage – indeed, Mr Obama warmly praises Mr Singh’s resistance to rising nationalist sentiments in India – the passages about Rahul Gandhi have drawn sharp criticism from Congress politicians, and given politicians from the ruling BJP an opportunity to mock the party.

The lawyer stated in his petition, which calls for India to issue a formal complaint to Mr Obama, that the millions of followers of these politicians will be hurt by his remarks, and the situation could turn chaotic if these people hit the streets in protest against the book.

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