The other day, a friend took me to see my first ever power-broker.
His office was in Dalal Street, near the new stock-exchange building. When we reached there, he was talking on the hotline to Mr. Pranab Mukherjee in Calcutta. On another hotline, one of his agents was waiting with a call from Mr. Gundu Rao in Bangalore.
After he had finished with the calls, the power-broker turned to me and asked: "You want to buy Congressmen or sell them?"
My friend intervened: "He does not indulge in power-brokerage, he does not know anything about it. Actually, I have just brought him to meet you. I hope you do not mind."
The power-broker made a call to a leading sugar industrialist, discussed something about a sale of 20,000 votes in Sangli, then turned to me and said: "You are lucky not to be in all this. These are days of distress sales and a lot of people have burnt their fingers."
My friend said: "He is one of the best power-brokers in the market. There was a time when he used to sell entire constituencies to business houses. There used to be queues here at his door of Tatas and Birlas and what-have-you moneybags."
"No names please," the power broker said. Then he adjusted his white cap, tucked the dhoti a little tighter round his fat legs, and added: "The whole market is thanda, for the last three months it has been a seller's market. I have never seen a situation like this, not even in Punditji's times."
My friend explained: "The power-brokers are the ones who are suffering most in the new depression in the political market. In the old days, he would not have had time to talk to you."
The power-broker was on the Delhi hotline, talking to his main agent in Parliament Street. Then he replaced the phone and said: "We are having an all-time low in the price of politicians, they have never been so devalued as they are at present. What in Sadoba Patil's time used to cost for half a politician, you get for it two dozen politicians now."
A messenger brought the latest price bulletin from the share-bazar next-door. The power broker studied it made a call to the BRCC-I office, I then said: "There was a time when I never used to deal with the BRCC-I, straight to Delhi, everything was. Sometimes I really think I should not make my sons power-brokers, put them in some other line where their service will be appreciated."
My friend said: "Don't do that, we need power-brokers. You know this is a passing phase. You know this is a passing phase. This country can never survive without power brokers."
After that we left. Later, I realised that had not said word. But that is my policy-if you don't know something, don't know something, don't open your mouth. Keep quiet and observe.