Mr.Roy was a political VIP. He was a minister who had control of several new projects and was part of a team which chose equipment to buy and projects to take up. He had just crossed 40, was balding and had a rotund figure with a big moustache. He belonged to the LPT party which ruled the State. It is fair to say that Roy was not corrupt. In fact he prided himself on his incorruptibility, and was held in high esteem in that regard.
That day Roy was in his office when legislator Maya walked in. She had crossed 50 and was an imposing figure due to her height and build, and above all, her white hair. She was clad in a white sari and a brown blouse. She had no make-up on but had jewellery on her wrists and round her neck. She had a smiling face and was quite popular with voters. Roy welcomed her and she sat facing him. He rang his aide and ordered tea. Roy said “I suppose you’ve come to discuss this year’s budget. The figures aren’t ready yet.”
She said with a laugh “I haven’t come about the budget. I’ve come about something else which is more important to me. I’ll be standing for the forthcoming bye-election and propose entering parliament. I’ve had enough of the State legislature.”
Roy wasn’t exactly surprised as she was a very ambitious woman with support of women electors.
She said “I haven’t revealed my intention to anyone else. I can say the chief minister will surely get our party to accept my candidature.”
Roy said “I know you’re a good orator and have a sizable following. I wish you all the best in the coming days. You seem to be telling me first about your intention. Where do I fit in?”
She said “I’ll tell you. I’ll open up the Golconda subway contract which is currently much talked about.”
Roy was shocked. He couldn’t speak. Tea was now served and further talk on their discussion was discontinued.
After tea service, biting into a cookie she said “Since we were the three to allot the Golconda contract I wanted to tell you I would tell the truth. The third member is since dead.”
Roy sat thinking. There wasn’t any illicit gratification involved. He only didn’t want his reputation besmirched.
He said “Why tell the truth at this time? It would damage my reputation. It was only a mistake. You’ll be opening a can of worms and the opposition would take pot shots at us. I wish you would simply say the order had been placed based fairly on competitiveness and competence to execute. Or lie saying the Austrian firm had left us confused in the beginning.”
The Golconda Subway project had been placed on an Austrian firm and had been completed. While initially evaluating the submitted tenders a mistake had crept in regarding the tunnelling machine. Later it was discovered that it had to be separately leased. This had resulted in overpayment of a big sum.
Maya said “There will be no harm done in telling the truth about our mistake. People will appreciate our frankness.”
Roy sighed and said “People will say we took the excess paid. Of course the case has gone for arbitration and the outcome is still awaited. Speaking the truth will impair our reputation. As it is the case is in cold storage. However if opened up by you, the Leader of Opposition (LOP) will surely seek an enquiry. It would be better to lie saying the Austrian firm has to take the blame”
“I’m going to take the stand that a mistake was made and has been by and large corrected. The decision was made after due forethought and no illegal gratification resulted. I’m going to take pride in our honesty.”
“Remember the LOP is wanting to spring on us. He is waiting for the legislature to again start functioning following the recess.”
Maya said “Remember the Austrian firm has said it is giving us a discount in the Lima river excavation which is being considered. That would also right the wrong.” She paused and said “I’ve to tell people I’m above corruption though I had set my hand on Golconda.”
Roy was thoughtful a few moments and then said “Maya remember we’ve 2 powerful opposition leaders the LOP and the head of MTC. If not one, then the other could pounce on us. Survival strategy is ours which is why I cautioned you. You’re inflexible. So be it. I wish you a successful future in parliament.”
She said “Remember I’m not against you. We should cooperate and survive. No need to lie saying the blame belongs to the Austrian firm. Thanks a lot for spending so much time with me even though I had barged in without an appointment.” She thought and said “One more thing. I’ll be submitting my resignation from the State legislature tomorrow after speaking to the media. I know the chief minister wouldn’t mind my taking the plunge into parliament. I wish you well too.”
After her departure, Roy decided to speak his wife Asha who knew local politics well. He told her about Maya’s talk with him. He said “I’m just 40 and can work till 60 if not more. If my name is besmirched due to having finalised a high value contract with a foreign firm, people will laugh.”
Asha was in deep thought and said “If you can corner LOP and head of MTC you won’t be affected.”
“I’m in the ruling party. How can I?”
Asha said ”You know Maya’s daughter is a medico with a string of degrees from overseas universities and also runs a hospital in her specialty. We also know that LOP’s wife has recently been diagnosed needing that specialty treatment. What would be better than to get the patient into that hospital for free treatment?”
“There is a political tout who could arrange that. I would’ve to pick up the bill for the tout and the hospital.”
“It would be a small price to pay, to silence LOP.”
“I’ll arrange it tomorrow,”
The next day Roy got the tout, but to his surprise LOP had himself arranged the treatment!
Roy told Asha “I’ve now to handle the other opposition MTC.”
“You’ve to find a way which will please him. Get his details.”
Roy laughed and said “It is not a he! Remember they elected a female as its head? A very tough female of whom even the CM is scared.”
“Get her details and we shall see how we can silence her.”
That had already been done! The Indian agent of the Austrian firm was very wise. After the dispute with the Austrian firm started, he had arranged for his firm to finance the lady’s son - an engineering graduate - to be admitted to a university in Florida and was picking up the bills for his post graduate education there for a year. Roy told his wife about it and she said “You’ve been deficit in getting information. You need improvement.”
The following day Roy ran into Maya in the legislator’s library. He wished her and said “Researching for the new career I take it?”
She said “Yes. I wanted to borrow a book on parliament.”
She laughed and said “I suppose you’re satisfied now that LOP and MTC wouldn’t go into Golconda actively! You needn’t worry if I speak the truth.”
“I suppose you handled LOP’s daughter’s treatment.”
She nodded and said “I wanted to see no harm comes to you from LOP. The Austrian firm has cleverly handled MTC!”
Roy went home a happy man!
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