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Monday, March 29, 2010

From Farooq’s joyride with Shabana to Omar’s chatting on BlackBerry

Calling the Abdullahs ‘non-serious’ has been the Muftis’ ace in a political chess game

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Mar 29: It is now over a year since the state’s youngest Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, enjoyed skiing on the alpine slopes of Afarwat on the day of his reply to the discussion on Governor’s address in the Legislative Assembly. He appeared on the scheduled time of his turn, at 4.00 p.m dot and got a bonus of one full hour as few of the MLAs demanded more time to make their points. Inspite of being absent for noticeable durations and having listened to not more than five speakers, he began replying to the debate and was heard making one of the most impressive speeches of his 11-year-long political career. He was plush with his party’s victory at the hustings and the Muftis were in the thick of reconciling to PDP’s defeat. Just the men like Panthers Party’s Harsh Dev Singh noticed Omar’s absence and made a modestly reformative comment.

As soon as PDP’s pain of the defeat receded, Muzaffar Hussain Baig did not lose a second to fire the salvo during the Budget session in Srinagar. It was indeed not an eloquent speech on the corruption tainted officials getting plum positions, land mafias grabbing the state land, financial mismanagement or bad governance. It was something that sells, like many parts of the country, in Jammu & Kashmir: Chief Minister’s and also his father’s “name in the shame list” (Srinagar sex scandal of 2007). Driven by his gut, Omar refused to listen to his party colleagues and friends and played what was indisputably the most dangerous game of his past and future political career. More than his age, his stars were strongly on his side and Baig’s gun almost backfired.

NC’s nincompoops did much of their dancing over the failure of what they called a “made in Papa 2” plot---an allegation that Baig was just an actor and the producers, directors and scriptwriters were all occupants of the former Chief Minister’s residence. What they failed to understand was that the same old armoury of 1980s was being invoked to pull down the prince in modern Kashmir’s battle royal.

In sharp contrast to his charismatic father, Farooq Abdullah was projected by his detractors as a joker. Suffering a deficit of his practical knowledge of the Valley’s social sensibilities, he exposed himself to every onslaught---by boarding the SRTC’s buses and checking the tickets of commuters, rushing to the National High School to douse the flames with his bucket, performing as a disco dancer and taking Shabana Azmi for a joyride on his motorcycle to Gulmarg.

The gameplan of labeling him “non serious” and a “man of easy virtues” consummated in late 1980s when Srinagar Doordarshan created its most popular “Hazaar Daastaan” and every watcher of the political satire began identifying Farooq with the clown king “Ahad Raza”. The serial was aborted under then Chief Minister’s strong protest but not before scores of its episodes had gone on air. By the time Farooq woke up, it was too late.

Being young becomes a disqualification when it comes to learning why Mr Baig was now pasting the cliché of Ahad Raza on Farooq’s successor. Irony is that whatever is expunged in legislature, gains circulation outside. It is not obviously without purpose that the Abdullahs are still being projected as “lesser Kashmiris” and “lesser Muslims”. Days before today’s accusation of“non seriousness”, Mr Baig had called the Chief Minister as “dau tihayi angrez” (two-third European) well on the floor of the House.

PDP seems to be confident that creating the image of non-serious, non-resident, inattentive, fun-loving Chief Minister would continue to sell in J&K much more than building an attack on the real issues like employment, governance and accountability. She has the facts on her side: trapping the coalition in a rape-and-murder that is now proved by CBI not to have happened, perhaps artificially manufactured with the help of men and women of political agenda in the noble professions of medicine, law and media; making Omar believe that his father’s hardcore diatribe against Pakistan was the fundamental reason of NC’s defeat in 2002 Assembly elections; forcing the NC to mug the refrain of “dialogue with militants, dialogue with separatists et al.

Even if, as the Home Minister of the country’s most sensitive state, he is addressing an urgent security related issue with Home Minister Chidambaram and Defence Minister Antony, Omar Abdullah is simply walking into the Opposition’s old trap by sporting his BlackBerry in the Assembly.


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