I woke up that Tuesday with hectic activity in front of Ghania teashop since dawn. It opened an hour earlier. People out on flower stealing mission, masquerading as morning walk started congregating their ordering teas and discussing something important. They were joined by few senior citizens back from their Park Yoga and Laughter Club sessions. I overheard them and it sounded like some election results were out. So I moved close eavesdropping, while masticating last night’s dinner.
My hunch was right, apparently election results for five states were to be released the same day, and the counting was less than an hour away. I expected the buzz to continue pretty much around Ghania shop that day, and I looked forward to juicy snippets. Around 8.30am, when the results first started trickling in the crowd there had surged like those in front of Aahar centres. For the first few hours it looked like the Lotusians were invincible….but then came the news that the Chapuda Party was ahead in the race by a slender margin. Few of the Lotus sympathizers (and there are many), pretending as if nothing had happened asserted that they will again roar back to power.
The Chapuda Party which ruled the Sultanate for good 60 years and Queen’s land for good 3 decades seems on the decline for the past 15 years. In the last few hustings, their party has failed miserably before the Queen’s bandwagon and has been reduced to only 16 seats. Many of the district level leaders switched to the Queen’s party, but the major blow came when one of the top 5, Guptinder Sing became a turncoat.
Infighting between the party also caused it to lose ground in the grassroots. People hadn’t apparently forgotten the misrule witnessed during the rule of Maithali Ballav (MB), the Pundit ruler who was the chief challenger to Queen’s late father. His entire rule was considered a dark era in the land’s history. Corruption, bribery, plundering of public money, murder, rapes were common place and apparently every thana used to have a seat for the Chapuda Party local henchman who guided police actions. Several contenders tried to snatch the mantle away from MB, but their brief success was no match for his cunning and intrigue. There was the Changu-playing tribal sardar and Western-region leader, but their reigns were anything but ephemeral. Nor the willy Jeena or the soft-spoken Fulachandan could rescue the party from its dark depths.
But the Party seemed to be making a comeback after Potla Khalnayak the portly trusted man of MB was reappointed the Provincial Chapuda Chief. And this came after his brother Totla Khalnayak, an erudite guy in his own right but a media moghul by the right of his father in law MB, joined the Queen’s Party. Totla was promptly rewarded by being the Queen’s delegate to the Sultanate’s Upper House almost instantly. So while there was tacit family connections at play, both were quick to deny any secret understanding promptly.
Sometime after that there were wild rumours that Totla has got the ears of the Queen and apparently, the Queen consults him on party strategy matters. But he was no match for the Mafia who showed him the red eye and Totla now satisfies himself by speaking on matters inane and sundry and printing it on reams of his paper, which claims to be 2nd largest circulated in the land. His TV channel too croons Queen’s paeans.
Potla has also been to keep the turncoat Chakrant Jeena at bay, apparently the latter felt out after the Queen’s Party and got close to The Vatican Lady and became a minister of inconsequential portfolios at the Sultanate. Jeena had an axe to grind against Potla over being kept out a policy committee of the Chapuda Party and resigned from all provincial committees in protest.
So the latest strong show of Chapuda Party in the hustings had obviously Potla and his bunch excited. The almost haunted Party hqrs, which long served as my public toilet, wore a festive look as crackers were burst and sweets distributed. Also in attendance was the mustachioed long-time Krur Riotray who has long served as the Court Jester of the party. “No Queen, no Lotus, only Chapuda Party is coming, others are gone,” he prophesied loudly while dancing and giving the party an estimate 90 seats in Queen’s land and 15 for Sultanate in next year’s polls. He also claimed Potla has plenty of money and could spend 4times as much as the Queen or Baazigar spends to become the ruler.
If bulls could laugh and ROTFL, I’d surely would have done it that day but all I could muster is a loud bray. The Chapuda Party is in no shape of its earlier self and looks like a wiggly haggard tail. Before they alight on the battlefield they need to tackle the infighting that promises to tear them apart before taking on anything mightier.