A geo-political survey of post-Indira India by a young Indian writer who has spent most of his writing career as an African and Mideast newspaper correspondent. Gupte, whose previous volume, The Crowded Earth, studied global population problems, takes us on a whirlwind tour of the second most populous nation on earth. In so doing, population continually emerges as one of Rajiv Gandhi's major problems to solve. India's 800 million people threaten to triple within 50 years, and the solution, to put it bluntly, is either Rajiv Gandhi's mental ingenuity or Malthus. But within that great mass of people the stresses are almost insurmountable. Born to the accompaniment of bloody riots between Moslems and Hindus, India has never quite gotten over the haunting problem of minority violence. In fact, the continuum can be said to run from Mahatma Gandhi's religiously-motivated assassination to Indira Gandhi's Sikh-inspired murder. And when religion fades as a motive for mayhem, linguistic separatists step in to foment discord. Rajiv Gandhi faces a massive task, especially since only a few years ago, when he was flying airplanes, he stated that he had no interest whatsoever in politics. But, Gupte says, he has a rare opportunity to wipe the slate clean. We would have a better idea where he was headed, though, had Gupte concentrated more on the ""how"" and less on the ""why."" Gupte's style tends to stress questions to the exclusion of answers. As such, the book never really seems to get off the ground. (As a matter of fact, fully the first third grates on the reader with its repetitious firsthand melodramatics of what everybody-who-is-anybody in India was doing or thinking during Indira's final hours.) Vengeance's chapters make better newspaper essays than they do a cohesive book. But, like a newspaper, timely.