Thinly-guised political story
Arun Gaur

We the People of India: A Story of Gangland Democracy
by Maloy Krishna Dhar. Vitasta, New Delhi. Pages X+443. Rs 395.

SATYA Sarthi, the protagonist in the novel, muses: "I liked to deactivate the stinking system by entering into it and immobilising its components from within." To accomplish this mission and to oust the Bharti family that has been ruling India for 60 years, he raises, through his political training, R. K. Dharmi from the status of a billionaire fish-seller to the office of the Prime Minister.

Satya’s inspiration is Krishna and for him the Gita is first and foremost the treatise of a master strategist: "Gita was not a book of religion. It was the First Book of War presented to humanity, with a detailed narration of the most important weapon of war—motivation, the urge to kill without remorse and a hunger to score victory at any cost." It is the Great Mahabharta War that has to be waged.

To actual conditions in Bihar and Delhi, Satya applies his election technology involving CBI inquiries, IB hit list, Naxals, private senas, bogus voting, assassinations, string operations, item girls, divya aadesh and fatwa. Behind these power and money grabbing games, the political philosophy is dismal. In a spurt of bitter irony, Satya observes that "the election time is festive time, time for reunion, renewal, revival and reassertion of faith in the system of electoral democracy". Here, "theoretically, we have a right to change the political faces periodically and decide whom we should award the rights to plunder". The common people are a non-entity who merely "take birth, marry, reproduce, eat, drink and die". The fiendish killings have divine sanction: "Death is immaterial. Hadn’t Krishna enunciated this to Arjuna in the Gita?"

Interestingly, and even provocatively, political figures have obvious telltale real-life correspondences. Mataji, the supreme leader of the INCP, has Western accent and Mona Lisa lips; Barsatiram, the Union Railway Minister and his wife Mitharani, the proxy Chief Minister of Bihar, have grass-roots mannerism, and Prime Minister Sewadarji walks and talks straight. We also have here all-too-familiar Governor Banta Singh: "The Governor looked with squinted eyes from behind the mellow lights of the table lamp, as if he was a confused Jerry, the house mice. Plates around him contained cheese chunks—Parmesan, Mozzarella, Swiss, Scandinavian, South of France and English. He did not know which bite to take." Besides such caricatures, humour is also produced by the use of emblematic names like Kulfi Singh, Lootpat Mishra, Barfi Devi, Quota Singh, Himmat Singh and Durjan.

It is not the character development that is stressed here, somebody may point out that the story moves in a crippling, almost cynical fashion, and that huge chunks of the novel remain preoccupied with the political theory. Further, the details may appear to be gory enough and the end of the novel a little contorted. Nevertheless, what keeps a reader glued to the task of reading is the fascinating grimness of the Indian election process and the minute details of the cold-blooded maneuvers the canny politicians indulge in—all this described with the professional authority of an insider, that one could write so much about these things so candidly and with a fair command over language is amazing enough.

Elora, an important woman character, tells Satya: "You’re an incomplete Krishna." This judgment may finally suggest that the transformation of the Indian political process may not be possible, yet the fact that through this novel Maloy has been able to put forth his points of view, castigating all the potentially dangerous factions, is in itself a remarkable achievement of the Indian democracy.