Elections loomed. The party electoral campaigns were funded by contributions from wealthy industrialists. But this year the donations to the party fund had been insubstantial. Some regular contributors had yet to donate. The party treasurer was unhappy as he took the account statement to the Minister. The deficit needed to be filled and fast.
“Have the industrialists shifted their allegiance?” The minister wondered, scanning the statement. “I’ll have to do something. The coffers need filling. It is time to call in a few favours.”
He picked up the phone and dialled.
“Mr Virmani?” he asked when the line was picked up at the other end.
“Mr Minister. How’re you?” said Mr Virmani, the steel magnate.
“Good. Good. The party has not heard from you this year. You have forgotten us, eh?” the minister rebuked, sarcastically.
“No, no. Minister Sahib* I’ve been busy with the new project. I sent the file to you long back for approval,” said Mr Virmani. “I hope you got the envelope with the file? Was it too thin?” queried the industrialist, slyly alluding to the bribe paid to get the project cleared by the Minister.
“Virmaniji*. I’ve just returned from the world leader’s summit. Don’t worry. I’ll clear your file first thing tomorrow. Have I ever let you down?” said the silver tongued Minister. “So, how much support can we count on you for, this time,” he probed further.
“Minister Sahib, you know I’ve sunk a large sum into this new steel project. I shall not be able to donate more than 20 crores,” said Mr Virmani.
“20 crores is just small change for your Virmaniji. Come now. Surely you can do better. Isn’t it in both our interests if my party wins and I am re-elected to the Heavy industries portfolio?” suggested the Minister artfully. “I’m committing 50 crores from your end to the party fund. You can manage that much easily enough. It will go a long way in cementing your relationship with the party top brass. We do want to work together in future, do we not?” he craftily added.
“Minister Sahib, you are really putting me in a fix. The amount is too much. Please reconsider,” pleaded Mr Virmani.
“All right Mr Virmani. I shall reconsider. How about you pay me 20 crores only and I withhold 20% of your project?” said the Minister, his tone changing from effusive to emphatic.
“What? No. Please Minister Sahib. That would ruin me. Please, please don’t hold my project,” beseeched Mr Virmani. “Don’t worry. I’ll find a way to come up with the money. Just, please pass the project proposal tomorrow itself,” he begged.
“Of course, Virmaniji. You can count on me. I’ll pass the proposal the minute the party treasurer confirms your donation. After all what are friends for?” said the Minister smirking. “We are both working for the betterment of our nation, are we not?” he added disconnecting the line.
His job was done. Both his and the party coffers would be filled.
Sahib – a polite title or form of address for a man.
Ji – a suffix added to someone’s name as a mark of respect.
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