In a dark cave on Akbar Hill near the great Raisina mountains sat the wizened mendicant of the grand old party. His eyes deep shut and lips muttering divine incantations to the Gandhis gone by, some of who’s coteries he had been an active member. His reverie was disturbed by the approach of two old-guard leaders, but he continued without paying any apparent heed to them. The old-guardsmen entered the cave silently, placed the gifts of bottled distillates from far off Scottish shores down on the floor and sat at the mendicant’s feet, patiently waiting to be acknowledged.
“Om Jawaharayeh Namah! Om Indirayey Namah! Om Rajeevayeh Namah! Om Soniayeh Namah!” he went on and on, his fingers counting the beads of his rosary furiously. When finally he was done with his mandated invocations, he opened his eyes and looked at his visitors. They stood and approached him, waiting to be addressed.
“I know why you are here.” The mendicant finally broke his silence. “Of course you know you old fool. It’s all over the papers” thought one of the guardsmen, but instead of verbalising his thoughts, bowed his head and said, “you’re truly antaryami (all-knowing) maharaj”.
“You’re worried about being pipped to the post by the upstart young Turks. If the CM’s chair in your respective states goes to these minor dynasts, your career is as good as over.” The mendicant summed up their dilemma, as both of them nodded vigorously. “I believe the cave next to mine is available.” He teased them.
But looking at their crestfallen faces, he assured them “I have the answer to your problems.” He looked down sneeringly at the gifts they had brought – his look was worth a thousand words. “Please help us Maharaj” one of them begged, “and we will shower you with choicest of favours from our state governments for your kith, kin and followers.”
“The answer is staring at your face”, the mendicant said, the wisdom gleaned from 60 years of misrule shining on his face. “Farm loan waivers.” He said.
Seeing the quizzical looks on the guardsmen’s faces, he elaborated with the air of an indulgent parent talking to a less than an intelligent child. “You know the cash crunch we are facing after demonetisation. With parliamentary elections just six months away, the best way to ensure the Chief Ministerial slot for yourselves is to promise to contribute 1,000 Crore each to the party coffers for elections.” Seeing the worried looks on their faces, the mendicant explained, “Not difficult at all. It’s a tried and tested formula of the party. Here is how it works.”
The old guardsmen, though being seasoned veterans themselves, were nowhere near the mendicant when it came to experience in such matters. They drew closer and listened on raptly as he explained. “Tell the party president you will each contribute Rs 1,000 Crore to the party funds if you are made CM. Then, immediately on taking over, announce waiver of farm loans in your respective states. The outstanding loans are over 56,000 Crores in your state, and 90,000 Crore in yours.” He rattled out the figures effortlessly, pointing to each aspirant in turn.
“Yes, but how will farmers not paying back their loans bring money into our party fund?” One of them asked. Giving him a look of utter contempt, the mendicant replied, “What have you been doing for all these years in the party. I am tempted to call up ma’am and tell her of your ignorance.” But then his gaze fell on the bottled gifts and he softened. “Listen carefully.” He said, “If you’re a farmer owing 2 Lakhs to the government, won’t you rather pay 20,000 to your local leader and get the entire amount waived?”
Both nodded in unison. “So once the loan waivers are announced, our collection machinery will kick in. Your offices will instruct the concerned banks to take orders from the party functionary in their areas. Loans of each farmer will be waived only after it’s cleared by him. Of course, it will be cleared only and only if the farmer has paid 10% of the loan to us. So the potential for collection is between 6,000 to 9,000 crores in your states. You will have enough left over to plan your own futures after giving the promised sums to the party fund.”
The old-guardsmen were awestruck with the brilliance of the whole scheme. The farmers would happily pay 10% to the party to avoid paying the rest of it to the bank. The losses will be borne by the ‘state’, or the taxpayers – who don’t come out and vote in any case. And the party will ensure there’s enough money flowing into their coffers for fighting elections. Hands folded, they rose, then bowed to touch the mendicant’s feet before leaving.
And so they were sworn in, over the heads of the obvious choices, to keep the party traditions alive and kicking. Charity needn’t necessarily begin at home – it can just as well end at home too.