THE ANTAGONISTS (Book Excerpt) by Tina Biswas

“I am one of you . . . that is why I, and only I, can be trusted to do what is good for you.”

January 12, 2013. Sachin Lohia, billionaire businessman, has just woken up to a nightmare. A raging fire in his hospital. Over hundred people dead. Journalists demanding answers. And worst of all, the chief minister of West Bengal, the formidable Devi, calling him a murderer.

Hot-headed and stubborn, Devi doesn’t bother with formalities—or facts. Her people are baying for blood, and Sachin is the perfect scapegoat. But will her schemes bring about his downfall or will she be the one to get hurt in this battle of wits?

Seamlessly melding the personal and the political, this is a darkly satirical story of clashing egos, fatal misunderstandings, and dangerous self-deception. Irreverent, incisive, occasionally scabrous, and always bold, The Antagonists shines a light on the murky world of politics.

“I am so excited to be publishing The Antagonists, a highly readable novel, combining tongue-in-cheek yet astute political commentary with personal drama, and plotted with such finesse that it leaves you in awe.”

Pooja Dadwal, Commissioning Editor, Fingerprint! Publishing

“Fingerprint is thrilled to be publishing The Antagonists, a very timely and perceptive novel, brilliantly plotted and completely engaging, which explores the riveting world of West Bengal politics with verve and wit.”

Shikha Sabharwal, Publishing Director, Fingerprint! Publishing

Below you can read an excerpt from this book. Courtesy: Fingerprint.

An excerpt from the book

“You always say that The Truth Party is against violence but isn’t it the truth that you rely on violence just as much as anyone else? In fact, since you came to power, hasn’t political violence been on the rise?”

“If there is being an increase in political violence, it is because of the others not because of me,” Devi sniffed. But the girl went on.

“Then why is it being reported that you use goons to rig election results?”

“It is because one section of the media with their vested interest is behaving like this, always carrying out personal attacks against me!”

“I’m not personally attacking you, I’m just asking you a question about why political violence is on the rise. Doesn’t everyone have the right to exercise their democratic freedom?”

Now Devi’s expression turned ugly. “I am telling you, you are a Communist cadre. I will not be answering to Communist cadres. I will only be answering to the common person.”

“I don’t belong to the Communist party, I’m just a student.”

“A student where?”

“At Jadavpur University.”

“Everyone at Jadavpur University is a Maoist!”

Both the girl and the rest of the crowd seemed quite amused by this and there was a little bit of tittering, which ruffled Devi further, causing her to slip into speaking in Bengali.

“That girl is speaking rubbish! The Communists were conspiring to murder me and now she is telling me about violence! This whole thing is a plot! The Communists have planted her to try and cause trouble and to denounce me!”

“But I don’t have anything to do with The Communists,” the girl said, now looking quite distressed herself.

“I’m just a student. And I’m not trying to denounce you, I’m just asking you a question.”

“I won’t be asked questions by so-called Maoists!” Devi shouted, switching to English again, as she started to rise from her seat.  “Or so-called people! All I am saying is that I don’t like goons or guns!”

Body language, thought Nigel, body language. Though he was well aware that her actual language— and the volume at which it was being uttered—was just as much of a problem. But he needed to try and keep calm enough to give her a pep talk if she stormed off.

What the hell were so-called people? Anil thought. And why was she shouting? Though she was right about not needing to be elevated on the dais. Not with a voice like that. No, she needed to be lowered. Into some subterranean chamber. Perhaps, for extra certainty, a subterranean vacuum chamber. Suddenly, the impulse to say something overtook him, and he stood up.

“Have you considered, Chief Minister,” he said politely, “that with all the murder conspiracies and the personal attacks and the plots against you, you might be suffering from some kind of delusional paranoia? And if not that, have you considered that you might just be really unpopular?”

Devi’s nostrils flared and she promptly stood up.

“He is another Maoist!” she declared, raising her hand in his direction, the Hello Kitty phone charm swinging wildly.

“I’m not a Maoist, I’m a strategy consultant,” replied Anil, laconically, which garnered a good few laughs from the audience.

“Yes, a strategy consultant for the Maoists!” screamed Devi. “I will report you to the police!”

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