Updated 8:04 am, Apr 28, 2021

Book Review: The People’s Maharaja | SNE

By  Dalip MacCune .
May 11, 2017


The biography of Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, ‘The People’s Maharaja’ is a well scripted document by Khushwant Singh revealing many unknown facets of Patiala royal family’s heir.

His education as a disciplined child in spite of having aristocratic background suggests how well he was groomed to learn the lessons of life. Young Amarinder Singh joined Indian Army with the passion for serving the nation as an army officer. He resigned from the Indian Army due to family reasons but re-joined the Indian forces when India went to war with Pakistan in 1965. He served the Indian Army from 1963 to 1966 during this short span of time be became the Captain in the Indian army.

Interesting incidents related to how Captain saw his wife Preneet Kaur for the first time before marriage, to how his family blossomed in the years to come after marriage. How captain instilled values and humility in his children with anecdotes related to his daughter Jai Inder Kaur and son Raninder Singh make interesting reading.

The most critical parts of the biography are related to Captain Amarinder Singh’s differences with Mrs. Indira Gandhi during Operation Blue Star in 1984 and after. When and why Captain parted ways with Congress party and why he went back into party’s fold.

The author has very skilfully written some of the most delicate emotional incidents related to Captain Amarinder Singh’s personal life and his political differences with senior political leaders related to Operation Blue Star in Punjab.

However, there are some glaring mistakes in the biography which overshadow the excellent presentation of the book. The author has not checked on the factual details of the incidents. It is not appropriate to point out all the technical errors but a few of them can be mentioned so that the message can go across the table. The idea is not faulted finding but putting facts across the table so that factual errors do not become the part of History.

When the author mentions Anandpur Sahib Resolution 1982 without mentioning the first resolution of 1973, or without mentioning the changes in the first resolution it becomes a bit confusing for the student of Sikhism and History.

Mentioning about the death of Mrs. Indira Gandhi the author mentions on page 156 that BBC team was waiting to conduct an interview with the then Prime Minister, when she was gunned down by her bodyguards. It was not the BBC team which was waiting but it was Peter Ustinov of Irish TV who was waiting to conduct an interview with Mrs. Gandhi for his documentary.


The book on page 151/152 mentions that ‘In 1762, Ala Singh had accepted the title of Maharaja from the Afghan invader Ahmed Shah Abdali. There is a big question mark on the year mentioned in the book.

According to WIKIPEDIA- The Maharaja of Patiala was a maharaja in India and the ruler of the princely state of Patiala. The first Maharaja of Patiala was Baba Ala Singh (1695–1765), who was granted the title by Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan in 1764.

According to WIKIPEDIA- ‘Patiala state was established in 1763 by Baba Ala Singh, a Jat Sikh chieftain, who laid the foundation of the Patiala fort known as Qila Mubarak, around ‘which the present city of Patiala is built. After the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 in which the Marathas were defeated by the Afghans, the writ of the Afghans prevailed throughout Punjab. It is at this stage that the rulers of Patiala began to acquire ensigns of royalty.

Forgetting all the historical errors the book makes an interesting reading and is a good work to understand the persona of Captain Amarinder Singh the 26th Chief Minister of Punjab.

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