The War Ministry by Krishan Pratap Singh
The War Ministry is the third book in the Raisina Series after Young Turks and Delhi Durbar by Krishan Pratap Singh. I had found Young Turks a bit naïve. But Delhi Durbar was a very tightly written story of politics in Lutyens Delhi. War Ministry carries on the story of the two friends a Nehru and a Khan who now lead the country from Raisina Hill. And dynamics they deal with.
The focus of the story this time is external affairs while it mostly focused on internal affairs earlier. Timeline of the story remains hazy. Somewhere in the beginning of the millennium, post the Atal Behari Vajpayee’s prime ministership. The protagonist team of a Muslim Prime Minister and a dynastic Deputy Prime Minister take on the biggies of the world. That is China and USA in a hypothetically smart way to get everything India wants through diplomatic channels only. While taking care that Pakistan does not make any noise anywhere. It gives you a glimpse of the world of diplomats/politicians/extended family connections/media & journalists who play their respective roles in taking forward the agendas of the parties they support.
The best part of the story is highlighting the pushes and pulls that a politician has to deal with. Especially in coalition politics. How the smaller parties can play their cards and dismantle the big ones. How the factions within the party are always ready to change sides. And how the religious identity is so difficult to be given up. How the religious leaders would want their share of politician’s success.
There is a sub plot that tells you the inside story of the Intelligence agencies and their agents. How they play with politicians and sometimes play in their hands. The wheeler-dealers who are never too far. And help crack the codes that best of intelligence agencies may fail to unlock. Author has skillfully left a few open ends like the corruption angle of the PM’s father, and the real genesis of Nehru name in DPM’s claim to fame. I assume they will be dealt in the next book if there is one being planned. A few new characters have been added. Like a Malayali Intelligence chief, and Oriya bureaucrat and a couple of mixed breed first-time politicians. Old protagonists have been strengthened, like a Ram-Lakshman Jodi, highlighting one’s characteristics by making them absent in the other.
Women have been sidelined through the story. And mostly play the role of supporting wives, piling on sister-in-laws or appealing journalists. Giving a signal that politics remains a male dominant profession give and take an exception. Social media also gets a mention towards the end of the story. An indication of the time when it became relevant for the politicians. Or indicating the time when the author got hooked on to the internet and realized it as a medium that impacts politicians. And can be a good tool in their hands. A dreamy author wishfully makes Teen Murti Bhavan the official residence of Prime Minister.
The War Ministry was a book I was looking forward to reading. So my expectations were a bit high. There was a huge gap between the last book and this. So the earlier story and characters sometimes got lost in mind. There are a lot of new characters introduced in this book and I got lost in them. Especially they have confusing names and are called by various variations of their names – sometimes by the first name and sometimes by the last name. A small thing but can break the flow of reading, as you have to go back and see who is who?
Overall a good read, one of the few political fictions worth your time.