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Voterfiles: the disquet in the democracy

Ranabir Majumdar | http://satanmig

Updated: December 8, 2010, 1:23 PM IST
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Voterfiles: the disquet in the democracy
The book brings to the fore some of the uncomfortable questions that we conveniently bypass during our television and newspaper space before every election 'event'.

It's the slimmest 'political' book I have ever read, but it's quite a heavyweight in the manner in which it creates a picture of India and highlights the issues that make yours and my vote count.

You could finish reading it in a longish metro ride from home to work, but you'd keep revisiting the passages and the experiences that the author, Manoj Kewalramani has so lucidly recounted of his 45-day journey across India before the 2009 general election.

Written in a conversational style that stars characters you would meet on a train journey (provided you travel 'cattle class') that includes NGO workers, doctors, civil contractors and impoverished farmers, the book brings to the fore some of the uncomfortable questions that we conveniently bypass during our so-called armchair analysis that dot our television and newspaper space before every election 'event'.

Several instances in the book indicate how you don't need to be a political expert to understand that what it takes to tackle sensitive issues and sensitive areas is the "Hearts and Mind strategy". It's a 22-year-old sepoy from Rajasthan, serving in Manipur -- "a place that even he found hard to identify as India proper" -- who dishes out that piece of advice to the author.

"...he explained to me how important it was for the forces to win over local villagers through good behaviour, food and other assistance, before they could even think about maintaining peace and harmony."

In yet another example of the ills that plague us, the author speaks about how despite several attempts to clean up the tourism business, "sleazy guides ceaseless trail you" and how "rigid priests demand blind conformity".

And it is that same leap of faith that the political parties had been seeking from the electorate in 2009. As the author demonstrates, India and its political process seem to resemble an amoeba, constantly expanding, constantly evolving, constantly vying for the attention of the electorate, who may not always be the stakeholders and vice versa.

The electorate has made a decision. Is this a great democracy or is there more to the disquet that we refuse to visit, only time will tell.

Voterfiles - A Political Travelogue by Manoj Kewalramani is published by Leadstart Publishing. Rs 100, 88 pages.

First Published: December 8, 2010, 1:23 PM IST
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