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Betting on the ballot

The plot isn’t the most original. Young candidate of the grand old party is pitted in a Lok Sabha ‘elecsun’ against dishy frenemy from the saffron party, her childhood sweetheart.

books Updated: Dec 18, 2010 00:30 IST
Aasheesh Sharma

Battle for Bittora
Anuja Chauhan
Harper Collins
Rs 299 pp 432

The plot isn’t the most original. Young candidate of the grand old party is pitted in a Lok Sabha ‘elecsun’ against dishy frenemy from the saffron party, her childhood sweetheart. “It isn’t Raajneeti,” she tells Gaiman Tagore Rumi, her gay animator colleague. That disclaimer doesn’t do much for a story where protagonist Sarojini Pande keeps raving about her rival’s honey-toned complexion, calling him: Awesome. Superheroic. Bitable. Incredible. (Author’s italics, not mine) All the cliches about the underbelly of a Lok Sabha contest come true: below-the-belt attacks, character assassination, black money, candidates withdrawing from the fray to support moneyed ones, even a sympathy wave.

For the voyeurs among the readers, the bawdy humour, built around numerous references to undergarments, may initially work. But when a woman describes her granddaughter’s discomfort in wearing an earring like this: “Maybe at first… the stick seems too big for the hole. But don’t worry… in time the hole will expand and you will get ujed to it,” the granddaughter is revolted. You make up your mind.

Anuja Chauhan’s Battle for Bittora gets my vote for treatment. Like Jini Pande, the spunky heroine who cries when her rivals accuse her of nymphomania but doesn’t bat an eyelid taking a R4 crore bribe in a suitcase, the book has its redeeming features.

The biggest is characterisation. With their idiosyncrasies, mispronunciation and picaresque mannerisms, Bittora’s residents come across as a feisty bunch. Leading the pack is matriarch Pushpa Pande, a poll-hardened veteran who manages Jini’s campaign down to the sarees. The other cameos come from The Rapist, son of a senior politician who keeps addressing women's breasts; the social worker who hands Jini a wooden penis during an election meeting and last but not the least, Pappu, leader of Jini's ‘crack’ team who says: “Sarojini Didi, I will do anything for you...How many times you want — I will give!”