By V Sudarshan
03rd May 2015
Consider the plot: There is a monarch in a powerful desert kingdom situated in a region where there is turmoil all around. To the north, he is engaged in proxy war which has left thousands dead. To the east, his implacable enemy is growing in strength. The monarch is 79 years old and it is rumoured he displays signs of dementia; it is not known how far gone are his faculties, how many lucid hours he has each day. But he has to make his moves quickly.
He names one of his sons, the one he dotes on most, a son through his youngest wife, his third, as the defence minister. In this kingdom, where it is common for royalty to study in foreign universities, this son has not. Little is known about this favourite son—even his age is a matter of debate. In the debate, his age varies between 27 and 35. Even the higher figure is about half the average age of the office-bearers of the king’s ministry. This son quickly prosecutes a war in a neighbouring country, to the south, a war that soon leaves thousands dead in aerial strikes alone. The monarch also makes this son his chief of staff equivalent, which effectively means the young man controls all access to his father.
In addition, this son is also named the head of a powerful body that formulates the economic and social policy. The three jobs that he has make him the most powerful person in the kingdom, next to the monarch himself, and positions him as a successor twice removed from the throne.
He is, in effect, even more powerful than the deputy crown prince, who happens to be a nephew of the monarch, and more powerful than the crown prince, who is a half-brother of the monarch. The deputy crown prince is a survivor of a horrific and diabolical terrorist attack. Legend has it that as head of the kingdom’s counter-terrorism operations, he tried to wean away the kingdom’s many known and unknown enemies, from the path of terror.
This he did by promises of rehabilitation. It is said he sent his personal plane to bring a dreaded terrorist to his palace for one such meeting. Once the terrorist was within the presence of the plenipotentiary, a bomb he had concealed within his person was triggered yards of the man who would later be declared as interior minister. How the terrorist managed to get past many layers of security still remains a mystery. What is no longer a mystery is where he concealed the bomb: in his rectum. In short, a bum deal. The survivor was hospitalised and subsequently seen in photos with two of his fingers in his left hand bandaged.
After a couple of months, the plot thickens when the monarch sacks his crown prince, something which is unheard of in the kingdom, and names the deputy crown prince as his heir apparent. This makes the favourite son a successor now only once removed from the throne, a heartbeat away as it were.
The monarch throws out a veteran royal, who is a foreign minister, and names a former interpreter in the embassy in a magical place called Washington, a non-royal, and a distinct lightweight, as the new foreign minister, fanning speculation that the kingdom’s defence ministry will soon be calling the shots in foreign policy as well. Will all this create ripples in the kingdom’s royal family thought to number anything between 7,000 and 15,000, a family which has managed transitions for a hundred years now through a show of accommodation? What will the monarch’s next move be? For more, don’t watch this space, read our foreign page regularly.
Sudarshan is the author of Anatomy of an Abduction: How the Indian Hostages in Iraq Were Freed firstname.lastname@example.org