Power Play

A card game recreates the vicious world of Indian electoral politics

01 November 2013
In Politiko, players use electoral strategy cards to outmanoeuvre rivals and win voters.
COURTESY KHOJ INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS’ ASSOCIATION
In Politiko, players use electoral strategy cards to outmanoeuvre rivals and win voters.
COURTESY KHOJ INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS’ ASSOCIATION

THE INDIAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY’S (INA) main rival is the Hindu Peoples’ Party (HPP). Securing the support of the All-India Dravidian Party (AIDP) can help the former gain an edge over the latter. But the INA may only get its support if it arm-twists the AIDP into joining its alliance. Of course, there is the danger that the AIDP will openly accuse it of incompetence, leading to a political impasse.

Though the party names may be new, these strategies and manoeuvres are familiar from the world of Indian politics. In September, visitors to Khoj, the artists’ studio in Khirki Extension, Delhi, found themselves engaged in such machinations amongst themselves as they played a card game called Politiko, developed by a 31-year-old Kuala Lumpur-based visual artist and game-maker named Munkao.

Munkao, who goes by one name, first conceived of the game in April 2012, having observed Malaysian politics for a few years. He began devising the game and testing it among his politically active friends. Funded and distributed by a forum called LoyarBurok through its online retail store, the game was officially released in April this year, just as Malaysia was gearing up for the most closely-contested general election in its history—between the country’s long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and the Pakatan Rakyat alliance. Munkao describes this period as a “political circus” featuring extreme right-wing groups and a compromised and ineffective police and judiciary. “In the last few years, protests got creative and there were many responses to these absurd developments, such as caricatures, iPhone games, rallies,” Munkao said. “I think Politiko is just part of a bigger narrative.”

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    Sonam Joshi  is a journalist and researcher who writes on art and culture.

    Keywords: elections art political parties Indian politics Khoj Malaysia
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