Krishan Partap Singh's Delhi Durbar takes a long, deep fictional look at our favourite punching bag — Indian politics
“As economic liberalisation and globalisation transforms the urban landscape of this country, middle class Indians have begun to be smug about the democratic system. We often trumpet the fact that despite the many insurgencies and social conflicts we face, the Army has never been tempted to take over,” says Krishan Partap Singh, author of “Delhi Durbar”, a book that talks about a power tussle in the heart of the Indian capital, Raisina Hill.
Singh says, “This book talks about the situation in which a retired Army officer becomes President and makes an attempt to overthrow the union cabinet and emerge all powerful, with the help of the Army.”
He adds, “This person asks the country to let him handle things on his own, much like Caesar, and promises to deliver results. The book makes an attempt to understand whether Indians would junk the democratic model and become a military dictatorship.”
On whether such a situation is possible in India, Singh contends, “The middle class occasionally craves for a benevolent dictatorship.”
“I was born in a period where the very democracy we are so proud off was suspended. In many circles, the Emergency is talked as being a good period, where government officers reported to work on time, trains ran as per schedule etc. They tend to gloss over facts such as the mass arrests, censorship of the Press and the mass sterilisation programmes that resulted in the heavy defeat that the Congress suffered in the elections in '77.”
He contends that despite the corrupt politicians, the lack of internal democracy in the political parties and the widespread red tapism that is prevalent across the country, India will remain a functional democracy. “I believe that the democratic foundations laid down by our founding fathers have taken deep roots. India may go up to that pit, but will turn back, instead of taking the plunge.”
Singh, once a banker, says that the novel is the second book in the Raisina series, with work on the third book underway. The first book “Young Turks” will be re-launched soon. “That book is an account of two young politicians, who start off as friends, but soon become rivals in the quest for political power. In this book, those characters play vital roles. They return as protagonists in the third book, ‘The War Ministry'.”
Coming back to “Delhi Durbar”, Singh quips, “The protagonist is a banker turned power broker, Jasjit Singh Sidhu who gets thrown into the power tussle between the Prime Minister and the President. The novel is centred around the internal politics that takes place in Lutyen's Delhi, a place where the fate of a sixth of humanity is decided everyday.”
Being a diplomat's son, does it make him more aware of the deals and corruption that goes on in the highest reaches of power in the country?
“This book is a work of fiction. There have been many exaggerations to make the plot more interesting. I have painted a scenario, where the current national parties are reduced to smaller players and the balance of power has shifted to smaller parties. It is a work in a parallel universe.”
With a grin, he adds, “Having said that, Indian politics often manages to amaze even fiction writers.” Singh is a democrat himself, though he does admit democracy is only the better option as compared to the rest. “It is not perfect, but the best system we have got. Indian polity faces many issues, but most of them can be solved by the electoral process.”
The book, published by Hachette, is available for Rs.195 at stores across the country.