Ashis Nandy is a man of many parts -- political analyst, cultural psychologist, sociologist, but above all, he is India's most famous liberal thinker.
For the last four decades, Dr Nandy has challenged Western intellectual dominance over Indian academics with his creative intellect. He has written on a wide variety of subjects with brilliance and originality.
His writings include contemporary Indian issues like politics, policies, women's issues, racism, mass violence, democracy, environment, future studies, nationalism, nation-states, human rights, violence and communal riots.
He is associated with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies of which he was director for many years. A thinker who has consistently probed human creativity and human destructiveness for the past five decades, Nandy took some time off to speak to Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt on Sonia Gandhi's four years as chairman of the United Progressive Alliance.
The UPA government completes four years in power this week. What's your take on Sonia Gandhi's performance as the UPA chairperson?
On the whole, the UPA has followed the pathway of earlier regimes, particularly of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). It was convinced that it will perform so well and give such governance that they would be re-elected. There was a false sense of permanence.
On crucial issues, the UPA has failed. They have done well on some issues. It was a humane regime. There has been no large scale bloodshed or riots. There was no major mishap as far as human rights issue goes, perhaps.
But, on the other hand, I had expected that after five years of BJP rule, they would give more autonomy and ensure the independence of many institutions concerned with intellectual and public affairs.
They haven't done so. In fact, they have put in charge of education Arjun Singh, who is a control freak. He did exactly what the BJP was doing.
Image: UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA allies at the release of the first report of the Common Minimum Programme in New Delhi in 2005. Photograph: Ranjan Basu/Saab Press
Also read: Meet the United Progressive Alliance