By Chandrima Pal Apr. 22, 2019
In the desi version of Game of Thrones, aka the general election, there are as many claimants to the throne as there are house symbols. Ranging from the hand to the hammer, lotus to the lantern, sickle to the cycle, and the cock to the clock. It’s poll season, and the drama of democracy dwarfs anything HBO’s entertainment juggernaut could offer.
Winter has come to India in the middle of summer. Not because Game of Thrones is back on air, but because another, even more epic showdown is in the offing. It’s the season finale for a show that ran for five years, and at stake is the Dilli Throne — not cast in iron, but cast at the neighbourhood polling booth. It’s election season, and the drama of democracy dwarfs anything HBO’s entertainment juggernaut could offer.
This desi version of GoT is now showing everywhere — at a screen near you, in your gully, mohalla, at a certain Altamount Road mansion, blaring from the autorickshaw radio, or knocking at your door, with a smile and a promise. Here too brothers are fighting brothers, sisters are rising to the occasion, families are being torn apart. The sky is dark with the spears and arrows of insults and vitriol. Somewhere in all this chaos, young underdogs hope for a turn in the spotlight. There are as many claimants to the throne as there are house symbols. Ranging from the hand to the hammer, lotus to the lantern, sickle to the cycle, and the cock to the clock.
Former enemies come together as political bedfellows. Friends have turned bitter foes. The House that was massacred in 2014, in a slaughter even worse than the Red Wedding, hopes to make a comeback. At one point, their allies and opponents alike mocked their feckless heir, telling him, “You know nothing, Baba Rahul.” But now that it is crunch time, there are many who swear by his ability to wear the crown and keep the warring tribes together.
Even as he went from a no-hoper to a would-be King in the North, Rahul had to bend the knee. But unlike Jon Snow, he refused to kneel. Though friendships and alliances could change his army’s fortunes, it seems like he will be riding into the Battle for 7 Lok Kalyan Marg by himself.
In the East is rising a self-styled Queen, a street fighter who rules with an iron fist and her own fleet of dragons, all while dressed in police whites. She wants the world to grovel at her feet. She is waiting for that moment on May 23 when the first call for support comes her way. They try to gag her. Contain her. But she rises from the ashes of her own temerity, convinced that the nation needs her. Why be a Khaleesi, when you could be a Banerjee?
It’s election season, and the drama of democracy dwarfs anything HBO’s entertainment juggernaut could offer.
But this rabble-rousing queen from the East faces a fierce foe from the West. Having already had a taste of playing kingmaker, Lord Tywi — sorry, Amit Shah, is sure to be looking to repeat his feat. Much like the Lannisters, Shah and his son have also enjoyed a bounty of riches while their man occupied the throne.
The North — meaning, Uttar Pradesh — remembers. And gets to decide who will grace that majestic throne. It has more soldiers than many of the other kingdoms put together. It has seen more bloodshed, more calamities, and conspiracies than any of the others. It has seen historic domes come crumbling down and rivers poisoned. Its women have suffered the worst offences and its children have died a cruel death. And it is raring to go.
There is the cat among the pigeons: Meet Pragya Greyjoy Thakur, the girl from Middle India, who is back from her banishment. She will stop at nothing in her relentless pursuit of power and could just be that not-so-secret weapon that her makers and mentors hope to unleash on enemy ranks.
And finally, there’s the man at the centre of it all — the one who travels around the world like The Three-Eyed Raven, who almost single-handedly shut the Opposition out of Parliament like Hodor, and has Tyrion’s knack for quotable quotes. It’s the man who sits on the throne, the Protector of the Realm and Prime Minister of this nation. His story arc will be the most interesting to watch as this political Game of Thrones makes its way to its unpredictable, exciting finale.
Where does that leave us, the ordinary folks who are mostly seen pushing carts and carrots in and out of the bleak, battle-scarred landscapes? You know, the faceless, nameless men and women who watch from the sidelines of the GOT universe? We hang in there, waiting for the megaphone-wielding guy to yell, “Action” and go about our everyday lives. Perhaps we’d do well to paraphrase that simple maxim that’s been drilled into our heads — “When you play the game of thrones, you vote or you can’t complain.”
Chandrima Pal is a journalist, columnist, career insomniac and caffeine snob. Loves food. Does travel. Author of A Song for I (Amaryllis) and At Home in Mumbai (Harper Collins).