Chapter 16 - Mash Forms His Inner Circle

The Prime Minister of Tawa – 16

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Urushambo had inherited his coconut plantation at Hakksadhra from his father. It was not very big, twenty acres or so, but it was closer to Hepara than the other one he owned, which was a coffee plantation in the northern part of the Island. The plantation was a stretch of coconut palms with a gap of around fifteen feet between each palm. A small building stood near the entrance and a car was parked nearby. When they got inside the building, which had just a couple of rooms, they found Nedeem, Vikan and Dimanan waiting for them.

‘Alakom Maheshdas-raan. Alakom Urushambo-raan.’ Nedeem wished Mash and Urushambo. Ever since Nedeem had defected to their side, courtesy Urushambo’s efforts, he had a conspiratorial gleam in his eyes whenever he met Mash.

‘Alakom Nedeem-raan.’ Mash responded.

‘How long ago did you get here?’ Urushambo asked Vikan.

‘Just ten minutes ago.’

Nedeem Balvanee came forward. ‘Maheshdas-raan, you have met Dimanan-raan before, haven’t you? Do you remember him?’

‘Of course, I remember Dimanan-raan. Good to see you again Dimanan-raan.’

‘Alakom Maheshdas-raan.’ Dimanan was quite flustered at being in Mash’s presence.

‘Please sit down,’ Urushambo said pointing to the straight back chairs which encircled a rough wooden table. The men continued to stand until Mash sat down.

Two men entered the room from nowhere, both dressed in a kiree, though one man’s kiree was very much dirty and soiled. He was obviously a labourer and the other one appeared to be an overseer of some sort.

‘Raan, would you like something to drink?’ the overseer asked Urushambo.

‘Why didn’t you ask these gentlemen if they wanted something?’

‘I did ask them. And they declined my offer.’

‘Would you like something Maheshdas-raan? Urushambo asked. ‘You could have a tender coconut. It’s quite nice, in this heat.’

‘Yeah, I will have a tender coconut. It’s been so many years since I’ve had one.’

Would you like a tender coconut?’ Urushambo asked the others.

‘Why not? I’ll have one.’ Nedeem said. Vikan and Dimanan too decided to have a tender coconut.

‘So that’s five of us. Five tender coconuts.’ The overseer and the labourer went off, with the overseer whispering something to the labourer.

‘You ought to bring your daughter here at some point. She might like to see all this,’ Nedeem suggested.

Mash was all set to launch into his discussion with Dimanan but was forced to respond to Nedeem.

‘Well, after the elections, maybe I will bring her here. Right now, things are quite hectic you know.’

‘Well, they will be even more hectic after the elections. It is will interesting for Heather-ree to see a man climb a coconut palm and bring down a bunch of coconuts. I’m sure she had never seen anything like that in your England.’

‘Well, it’s no longer my England you know. I have renounced my British citizenship. And in any event, I was always Tawan at heart.’

Nedeem was going to say something further, but Mash cut him off. ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t have too much free time you know. So, let’s make sure we are all on the same page. Nedeem-raan, what have you told Dimanan-raan?’ he asked Nedeem.

‘I’ve told him that you are selecting a select band of MPs who will help you rule the country and fulfil your vision.’

‘Well, that’s right. I don’t really agree with Horan-raan in many respects. Horan-raan is a good man. He served my father very well. He has served this country well. But he needs to go. So, he will not form a part of my new team, after the elections. Do you understand?’

‘I understand Maheshdas-raan.’

‘And my policies are going to be bold. Peace with the Seedas and economic liberalisation. What do you think?’

‘What’s there to think about Maheshdas-raan? I agree with you fully. I’ve always thought that we ought to give the private sector a free hand if the economy is to improve.’

‘Do you know why you remained an MP while that god-for-nothing chap became the economic affairs minister?’

Dimanan’s eyes gleamed. ‘I’ve no idea Maheshdas-raan,’ he said.

‘Do you realise that the Economics Affairs Minister will be a Cabinet Minister?’

‘Yes Maheshdas-raan,’ Dimanan whispered.

‘There’ll be five cabinet ministers including me and seven other ministers. Except for Peelee, the rest of the cabinet will be a team handpicked by me. Do you understand?’

‘I understand Maheshdas-raan.’

‘Well, I just wanted to speak with you personally. If you like, you can have a look at this list of ministers. It is not yet final; we still need to decide on some of the ministers.’

Dimanan eagerly took the file which Mash offered him and flipped it open. It had just two sheets of papers in it. The first sheet had various names, with many of the names crossed out. ‘Look at the second sheet,’ Mash told him. Nedeem and Vikan got up from their chairs and stood behind Dimanan. ‘It’s the list I’ve discussed with you both,’ Urushambo told them.

‘Of course, a lot depends on who finally gets elected. If some of our chosen ones don’t get through, then we will quickly have to decide on others.’

Dimanan lifted up his head from the file. ‘So, the cabinet will include you Maheshdas-raan, Peelee-raan, Vikan-raan, Nedeem-raan and me?’

‘That’s right. What do you think? Think we have a good team.’

‘Oh yes, but Peelee-raan may not be very happy with things. He may not make a good team player.’

‘In which case we will have a cabinet reshuffle!’ Mash declared. The men laughed.

‘You will have a tough job. It won’t be an easy task to privatise the plantations.’

Dimanan was shocked. ‘So, will we be privatising the plantations? All of them?’

‘That’s right. Not immediately. Not for a year or so. We’ll privatise both the banks and the insurance company first. That’ll be done without any loss of jobs. The shares held by the government in the banks and the insurance company will be listed on the stock exchange and then sold to the public. And we will ensure that there are no job losses for five years. After that, we privatise the fertiliser factory and all other factories which were nationalised. Once again, we’ll try to avoid job losses for the first few years. After that we privatise the plantations.’

‘Do many people know about your plans?’ Dimanan wanted to know. He ran his tongue around his lips and he appeared to be scared.

‘The only people who know of my plans are in this room. And it won’t be implemented immediately. Not for a year, may be two years.’

‘I understand Maheshdas-raan how important it is to return the plantations to the people who owned them in the first place. But we may have a lot of labour unrest if many people lose their jobs.’

‘We’ll have to deal with that, won’t we? In the long run, it’s for the best.’

Dimanan still had a worried look. ‘Horan-raan won’t be too happy. He and Peelee-raan could stir up something together.’

‘We are hoping to drive a wedge between them – by giving Peelee-raan a cabinet post and keeping Horan-raan out of the ministry all together,’ Urushambo told him.

‘And Horan-raan is not so popular anymore. I’ve been forcing him to speak at every rally immediately after Maheshdas-raan speaks. It just shows everyone how much more popular Maheshdas-raan is. Horan-raan does not even get one-tenth the applause which Maheshdas-raan gets,’ Nedeem added with a sly smile.

‘He’s quite old as well, he no longer has the energy he used to have,’ Vikan added.

‘My father used to like him a lot. And he is a good man. But now that I am back, I need to run things my way. I can’t have Horan-raan telling me what to do, do you understand? That’s the only reason why I am doing this. Do you understand?’

Dimanan nodded his head. Mash wasn’t convinced about Dimanan, but it was now too late in the day to find another half-decent economic affairs minister who would toe his line.

‘And did you notice that we will have two Seeda ministers? Vikan will be in the cabinet. And if that man wins,’ Mash pointed to a name on the sheet of paper, ‘he will also be a minister, the minister for agriculture and fisheries. I want to show the Seedas that my government represents them as well. What do you think?’ Nedeem hadn’t been too happy when he told him of his proposal. Even Vikan seemed to be uncomfortable with the thought that such a move might anger the Keendas.

‘That’s fine Maheshdas-raan. Anyone you think is a good man should be in the ministry’ Dimanan said with a nod of his head.

Mash laughed. ‘All the TFP MPs are good men. But I can have only twelve ministers. Of which two will be Seedas.’ Urushambo was the only one who really supported the idea of more Seedas in the ministry. ‘Ignore them all. Seedas form 20% of our population. Ideally one-fifth of your ministers ought to be Seedas. Vikan will feel threatened if there is any other Seeda in the ministry. But ignore him as well,’ Urushambo had advised Mash. Mash realised that given a choice, neither Nedeem nor Dimanan would have added a single Seeda in the ministry. Tough luck guys, Mash thought. I am in charge.

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