Chapter 6 - The Election Campaign Gets Underway

The Prime Minister of Tawa: Chapter 6

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Mash realised that he had absolutely no control over the election campaign or anything else in particular.  Horan, Peelee and a few others were running the show entirely on their own. It did not help that he had arrived a month after election campaigning had started. What made it really bad was that he had no way of judging Horan’s decisions. Also he had no alternate suggestions to make when Horan or Peelee proposed something. With regard to Peelee, his initial impression had been correct. Mash found himself hating Peelee more and more by the minute.

Horan Samiban had rung up Mash at eight in the morning.  The servant had to bang on Mash’s bedroom door many times to get Mash to wake up and answer the phone in the hall.

‘Good morning Maheshdas-raan. Did you sleep well?’ Horan had asked. Mash had grunted in reply.

We’re having a meeting at the party office at nine o’clock. Would you be able to join us?’

‘Make it nine thirty,’ Mash had the presence of mind to tell Horan.

‘Nine thirty then Maheshdas-raan,’ Horan had agreed. ‘Do you remember the party office, Maheshdas-raan?’

‘Of course, I remember the party office,’ Mash replied. The offices of the TFP had been built before Tawa became independent solely with street contributions collected by TFP workers from all over Tawa. After independence, it was been expanded to accommodate the needs of the ruling party.  During military rule, General Naranin had commandeered the building and used it as a police warehouse. Most of the property confiscated from various members of the TFP, furniture, televisions, refrigerators, scooters, washing machines, had been stored there.

‘In any event, your driver will bring you there Maheshdas-raan.’

The TFP office symbolised the current state of Tawa. It was a large building with a very shabby exterior. If maintained properly, it would have been a grand building. As soon as Mash got off the car, he was surrounded by a crowd of party workers. His security men quickly formed a cordon around him and ushered him inside. Shouts of ‘Long Live Maheshdas-raan’ and ‘Long Live Seleem-raan’ followed him.

Once Mash went inside, he was ushered into a meeting room. To get to the meeting room, he passed through half a dozen other rooms with an assortment of people in them. The rooms were all in need of a good lick of paint and were badly maintained. But the room he finally entered was quite different. It was air-conditioned for a start. It had a proper conference table with chairs around it. Horan Samiban, Peelee Threeman, Nedeem Balvanee and three other senior party members sat around the table discussing something animatedly. A couple of brown files lay on the table. They all jumped up as soon as Mash entered.

‘Alakom Maheshdas-raan,’ Horan said.

Mash ignored him and asked rather crossly ‘Why didn’t you people wait for me before starting the meeting?’

‘We haven’t really started the meeting Maheshdas-raan,’ Horan spoke in a mollifying tone. He had a day’s stubble on his face. The white stubble looked totally out of place on his dark and plump face and stubby nose. It did match the colour of his pure white kiree though.

‘Maheshdas-raan, you ought to learn to do things our way. We do things differently here, you know.’ Peelee spoke as if he were a father figure. Before Mash could respond, he went on, ‘If we say, let’s have a meeting at nine o’clock, it does not mean the meeting will start at nine. It means the meeting will start when it is convenient for everybody at some time after nine. If you try to follow your English rules of punctuality out here, you will go crazy.’ Peelee had an expectant look on his face, as he waited for Mash to laugh at his joke. Mash refused to oblige him.

‘But you started earlier, not later.’

‘We were just looking at the latest DCI report. Do you know what it says?’

‘DCI is the …’ Mash sat down on a chair and the rest of them followed suit. Of course he knew what DCI stood for. He had heard his father use that term many times. It was on the tip of his tongue.

‘Directorate for Criminal Intelligence’ Peelee supplied Mash with the answer.

‘They have good news for us Maheshdas-raan,’ Nedeem Balvanee gleefully informed Mash.

‘The DCI report says that your arrival has made a huge difference. More and more people are switching camps. We are projected to get around sixty to seventy percent of the votes. That should translate into forty-five to fifty seats. That’s an overwhelming majority for us.

‘You mean to say that the DCI has brought out a report which predicts the election results?’

'But that's what the DCI is there for. If the DCI can't predict who'll win the election, what use are they?

‘But how do they do that?’

‘Oh they ask around. We have intelligence officers in all the towns and almost all villages.’

‘And why would the DCI want to do that?’

‘I ordered them to do it. I am the interior and defence minister. I can ask them to do things like this, you know. But to be honest, they like to find out in advance as well.' Peelee giggled. It sounded funny, coming from such a huge man.

'Oh and why do they want to find out in advance?' Mash asked Peelee rather crossly.

'So that they can butter up to the side that is likely to win. If they' think we are going to lose, you can be sure that they will start cosying up to the PDA right away.’

'Just be careful. Don't use them too much. We do not want a scandal at this moment, do we?' Horan asked Peelee.

‘I don’t remember the DCI doing all this during my father’s time,’ Mash told the gathering at large. ‘I don’t think we should be doing this!’

‘You see Maheshdas-raan, it is true that the DCI did not do all this while Seleem-raan was in power. Before independence, the British used to do it. I mean, they created the DCI to spy on the freedom fighters. After General Naranin came to power, he started to use the DCI to spy on people he did not like. We all were spied on. It was the DCI which interrogated us while we were in gaol. But now, times are such that unless we get the DCI to work for us, we will not survive. We need to use a few dirty tricks to survive these days.’ Mash did not argue further. After all, his father had not used the DCI to spy on people and as a reward for not having played dirty, he had been overthrown and killed.

'Don't use them too much, okay? Only Kemon and that's all we need.' Horan told Peelee in a worried voice.

‘You mean, we are spying on Kemon Padusee?’

‘We are reading his letters. And we do have two officers dedicated to listening to his phone calls. I specifically authorised that.’ Peelee admitted to Mash. ‘But that’s all we are doing.’

Before Mash could object, Horan Samiban reminded him, ’Please remember how the PDA was created. It was created by General Naranin to act as a proxy for him. Kemon is General Naranin’s lapdog. You’ll never know what sort of tricks Kemon can get up to.’

Mash was shocked beyond words. He was also at a loss for words.

‘Let’s discuss Maheshdas-raan’s schedule for the remaining six weeks. And our election manifesto. That’s the main reason we had to trouble you to come here this morning,’ Horan apologetically told Mash.

‘We also need to discuss the DCI report,’ Peelee added. ‘That’s what we were discussing when you came in.’

‘Can we discuss the DCI report first, before discussing my schedule?’ Mash slowly gathered his wits and demanded of Peelee. Peelee’s face clouded for a second, but cleared up quite fast.

‘Sure Maheshdas-raan. You see, two days ago, Kemon made a phone call to a PDA election candidate for Yalee. This candidate is holding a rally at Yalee next week and Kemon is going to address that rally. Kemon says, ..’

‘You mean all this is from the DCI’s report.’

‘Yes. Here you can read it for yourself.’ Peelee picked up a brown file and handed it to Mash.

Mash did not accept the file. Instead he said, ‘why don’t you tell me what the issue is?’

‘Kemon told this Yalee candidate that he plans to raise a couple of new issues at his rally. As you know, Yalee is a seat where we are not very strong. There is a good chance we will lose Yalee, even if we win the election.’

‘So what’s the issue which Kemon plans to raise?’

‘You hold dual nationality, don’t you?’

‘Yes, I do. But I plan to surrender my British passport. That is I will be renouncing my British nationality.’

‘But you wife and daughter, are they also dual nationals?’

‘No, they are both British. Just British.’

‘Well, that’s what Kemon plans to raise. How you have come here at the last minute, how you have been a British national till recently, how your wife and daughter are still British nationals with no plans to acquire Tawan nationality, how your daughter cannot speak any Keenda, all that they plan to raise.’

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More by :  Vinod Joseph

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