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Not always, not everywhere, but for some somewhere, India is a lucrative democracy. The profits are of power, which cannot be everyone’s, for there have to be some subjects of power. Democracy is a way of deciding who gets through the barricade. The process of admission into the lucrative precincts works fairly smoothly. But who is to have a try at the hop-step-and-jump is left to parties, and those who do not get a chance can always start their own, even if it is a party of one. Hence whenever general elections approach and the chances of the aspirant majority in every party get dimmer, there is a migration of devoted party workers to the ranks of opportunists. They do not lack company. There are many parties that do not have much chance at the hustings; they too look for a way to power.

The first requirement towards getting elected is getting known; in elections where the number of candidates for a seat often approaches a hundred, the elector cannot be blamed if he cannot distinguish between Prem Lal Mukerji and Pyare Lal Banerji. That is why an undistinguished young Thakre confiscated the name of a famous English novelist. He drew passable cartoons, but it is doubtful if he had ever read The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century and Charity and Humour, let alone The Book of Snobs. But he had good command of Marathi; he combined it with a hatred of south Indians to produce a powerful cocktail which found a market amongst Bombay Maharastrians. It was not a big enough market to carry him to power, but then the Bharatiya Janata Party found its own opportunistic reasons to align with him, and they shared power for a while.

He was wise enough to have offspring; but that does not ensure succession. He had forgotten a nephew, who turned out to be a better rabble rouser. Recently there have been signs of a rapprochement between the cousins, but it is to no purpose, for the parties of both are limp shadows of their forebear. The son is indecisive, while the nephew is impatient. Elections are just weeks away, and he needs to remind the people of the stuff he is made of. So he organized his party men to attack toll booths across Maharashtra. He may not be entirely stupid; Maharashtra happens to be the country’s second or third richest state, and it is possible that his attacks disrupted the plans of an influential minority. Some of them may even think that it is better to put a disorganizer in power than to let him loose on the streets. The Congress is, however, handling him with kid gloves, calculating that if he wins some votes with his shenanigans, that will mean so much fewer votes for the BJP. Those western politicians are deep.