As co-founders of the Sangram Sena, the right-wing Hindutva party, DV Dogra and Vikram Bhagat had of late found it necessary to spend more time in India than ever before. The party had come into existence a few years ago after rightwing ideologues in India saw the prosperous overseas Indian community as lucrative supporters in the cause of Hindutva in a wildly altering political and social order in India. Shortly after its formation, the Sangram Sena won its first Lok Sabha seat in a Jammu bye-election. To follow that victory, its hand-picked national leader Raj Tawalkar’s aggressive anti-Islamic posturing began to catch the imagination of the majority community. For the first two years, everything went according to plan.

In no time at all, Tawalkar became the saffron brigade’s poster boy. His sound bites, faint English accent and craftily pugnacious speeches brought him dubious but instant fame. And while the Sena eventually lost Tawalkar to a bitter intraparty feud some years later, its membership base in the country continued to grow. Arvinder Parmar, the well-connected philanthropist and known secularist was handed over the reins as Tawalkar’s replacement in an apparent departure of the party from religion-driven politics. But DV Dogra remained convinced that hardcore Hindutva was the way forward for their party and remained openly hostile towards Parmar.

“Vikram, you have to acknowledge that our strong Hindutva stance of the past paid us rich dividends. Even now it is what remains of that stance that gets so many people to join us.” With his ample frame and bushy silver beard, Dogra resembled a sullen Santa Claus at the moment. “Perhaps, DV,” Bhagat only half agreed with his Canadian friend and associate. “But I have my doubts that religiosity alone will be the key to this election.” Bhagat was calm in the knowledge of his meticulous planning that would propel the Sangram Sena’s fortunes in the coming months. But he saw the need to address Dogra’s doubts. Knowing him as he did, he dreaded the possibility of his partner’s hostility one day leading him to have Arvinder Parmar eliminated altogether. “And what are you worried about, DV? You know our initial list of nine contestants has already swelled to 16. They could fight and win in the next elections for us.”

Bhagat had conceived the idea of approaching serving politicians marginalised by their bosses. And since it had been a season of odd discontent for parliamentarians and even ministers, Bhagat had been early to identify enough low-hanging fruit to strengthen his party’s prospects. That they had enough financial resources to sweeten the deal for such politicians was undoubtedly an advantage.

With an abrupt departure of mood that didn’t at all surprise Bhagat, Dogra cheered up for a moment. “Incidentally, nice article on you in the latest issue of Forbes. You look debonair as ever, Vicky.”

“Thank you, my dear DV,” Bhagat smiled. “And relax; we will have good numbers in the Parliament this time.” “Yes, that’s possible. But I still feel we are not quite on point. The pseudo-secularists already consider us pariahs. Now even the Pro-Hindutva brigade eyes us with suspicion. As though we were mere opportunists all along.”

“DV, any political party with even a handful of Lok Sabha seats will have a say in the formation of the next government at the Centre. It really won’t matter what the political landscape thinks of us.”

“Sorry, Vikram. But I am worried about how we are allowing matters to drift. Hindutva is increasingly the flavour of the times. Let’s not surrender the space that you and I created so painstakingly.” Vikram Bhagat was known for his patience. “We are opportunists like everyone who matters in this country. I don’t think we need to be ashamed of that. At least we’ve taken a stance and made development our primary plank. And don’t forget that after getting Arvinder Parmar to spearhead the party we’ve managed to improve the lot of countless farmers already.”

“Perhaps Arvinder is our best choice for the moment,” Dogra admitted grudgingly. “But you know some of our backers are as concerned about establishing strong Hindutva tenets in the country as they are about their investments here. I can tell you that more than a couple of them are uneasy about Arvinder’s mindless secularism.”

Even in Bhagat’s opinion, Arvinder Parmar could become emphatically self-righteous on occasion. But he believed that Parmar brought enough to the table to negate his innate stubbornness. But above anything else, Bhagat was immensely thankful for Parmar’s contribution to his own personal sense of well-being. It was through Arvinder that Bhagat had met his cousin, Jaisal Jogmer. And now, if events unfolded satisfactorily, Jaisal would join Bhagat’s family by marrying his only daughter, Jayati. Bhagat couldn’t thank providence enough for getting his whimsical daughter to come with him on this present visit to India even if it had come about due to a small setback to her. After being involved with a struggling English artist for a year and using all her resources to promote him, Jayati had been unceremoniously dumped by the ingrate who later realised that his interest actually lay in men. So when Bhagat noticed the growing chemistry between his daughter and Jaisal Jogmer on this trip, he had been wise to affect an air of nonchalance.

That a matrimonial alliance with the Jogmers could enhance his party’s influence in India was not of much importance to him. What was paramount was his belief that Jaisal would make the ideal husband for Jayati.

Having kept the news from even Dogra so far, he finally broke his silence. “This is terrific, Vicky!” Dogra got up from the green leather sofa he was sprawled on and started to pace around the room. This was big news! Dogra was cognisant of Prithvi Jogmer’s vast influence on the present political situation, what with growing rumours of belligerence among the armed forces.

“Are there any plans to meet the Jogmer family?” Bhagat wondered whether he should also share with Dogra the plan freshly taking shape in his head at the moment. “No, not yet,” he answered after crossing his fingers under the table.

Excerpted with permission from The Other Man: Love, Loathing and Murders, Ajaybir Singh Garkal, TreeShade Books.