The Winner’s Curse – Dee Walker – Book Review

TheWinnersCurseGoodreads blurb: A political thriller about national ID numbers, power and greed.

Orphan Harsh makes it to the billionaire club with a burning vision, sheer intellect and the blessings of his political Godfather. The favors must now be paid back through a huge Guru Dakshina. To honour his Master’s wish, Harsh, with the help of his fellow IITians, sets out to create a never-seen-before governance technology around the national ID numbers, that will change the face of democratic India.

Everything is at stake: money, reputations, egos and morals. Even lives.

Will they succumb to insatiable greed in the murky games of politics, backstabbing and subterfuge or will they be redeemed by the ‘Ten Commandments’ that once forged their ideals at college?

If you thought that supreme technology and unalloyed power can bring lasting change or that e-governance and transparency can address the ills of our system, The Winner’s Curse will force you to think again. For what’s at stake is: YOU.

The Winner’s Curse: the turbulent voyage of talent and intellect in the morass of turpitude.


I don’t know what it was about this book, but for whatever reason it didn’t quite hook me right from the beginning. While the concept of creating something of the magnitude of Jan Shakti for the greater good of the nation and its people, using technology, while having an ulterior motive of conducting private surveillance on a select group of people sounds quite intriguing and lip-smacking, I don’t know why but the entire premise of the book didn’t quite work for me. Maybe it was because of how simplistically the entire premise was presented, or maybe it was because of how all the characters were painted in plain shades of white or black with hardly any grey characters in the plot, but neither the plot nor the protagonists (or for that matter the antagonists) worked for me.

Starting with Harsh Mittal, the self-anointed conscience keeper of the nation who based on instructions from his political godfather, the Master setting off on what is probably the most ambitious National Id Number project that the world has ever seen, The Winner’s Curse takes us on a ride which involves corrupt self-serving politicians, crooked businessmen who will go to any lengths to win a round against their business rivals, corrupt bureaucrats who will do anything to make a quick buck and various other types of clichéd characters that we see in movies and hear about in almost all news channels of the day.

And then there is the holier-than-thou character of Kamal, Harsh’s best friend from IIT who belongs to the other extreme end of the spectrum. He is the voice of conscience to people in materialistic pursuits like Harsh and in fact does play a pivotal role in Harsh doing what he finally ends up doing.

Add in the mandatory masala elements like an ‘unholy’ relationship between two characters, one failed IITian making it really big in the US, a melodramatic ending with one the main characters dying, and lo and behold, you have the perfect recipe for a blockbuster, right. Well, not quite, at least not in the case of The Winner’s Curse.