Different flavours 
Reviewed by Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Tandoori Democracy
by Shinder Purewal Gyan Publishing House. Rs 525 

Tandoori Democracy is an interesting book that draws one's attention to various ills afflicting the democracy in the country. The subject on which author Shinder Purewal dwells on his book is in the public domain for the past several years and has been debated extensively but the style adopted by him to tell the story is new. His narrative is different. He talks about the degeneration of the electoral system blaming all main players in the political system. However, to score his point he talks through various characters.

The book is based on writer's experiences and observations in the Assembly elections held in Punjab in 2012. He highlights the challenges facing Indian democracy. Role of money has become central in the elections in the country. But the most worrying aspect is the criminalisation of politics and the election of criminals as MLAs and MPs.

Purewal, a professor of political science at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Canada, tells the story of Punjab elections in a fictional style. He has remained associated with electoral campaigns in Canada and was a regional director for former Prime Minister Paul Martin's leadership campaign for the Liberal Party of Canada. His association with elections in Canada appears to have prompted him to study the Indian electoral system and malpractices associated with it.

In a chapter, Purewal focuses on the distribution of alcohol and drugs in the run up to polling to influence voters. The use of alcohol and drugs to secure votes has even hit the panchayat elections, the grassroots level institution of the democracy. In the recent Lok Sabha elections, the drugs had become a main issue. The author mentions about the steps taken by the Election Commission to check the use of intoxicants in the elections and how candidates defied its orders in this regard.

How caste plays role in the Indian democracy is other issue on which Purewal has written in detail. India is such a diverse country that castes and communities have become integral part of the electoral system. Even candidates are nominated keeping in view the demographic character of a particular constituency. Then he also focuses on various godmen, babas, deras and sants in the electoral system. There is a chapter describing that how candidates reach out to heads of such institutions to seek their support in the elections. Role of NRIs in elections especially in a state like Punjab, media has also been discussed in the book.

In the Lok Sabha elections, NRIs took active part in the elections through social media. Some of them came to Punjab to campaign in elections. Purewal interacted with ordinary people, candidates, party leaders, researchers, journalists and others before putting his thoughts on the paper. He concludes that the checks and balances inherent in a democracy are on the decline and the process of degeneration in the political system, especially electoral process, is continuing unabated.