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Farooq Abdullah—many voices, many faces


Former chief minister and National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah was heckled by a mob at Hazratbal during Eid prayers on Wednesday. The mob was apparently angry over Abdullah for chanting slogans “Bharat maataki jai” and “Jai Hind” when he was paying tribute to AtalBihari Vajpayee at the all-party meet organized in Delhi. Vajpayee died last week.
In a video available on social media, Farooq Abdullah is seen shouting slogans vigorously to the full power of his voice. He is pleading with the audience to respond to his slogans full-throated.
Farooq Abdullah also heaped praises on Vajpayee as “king of hearts”. Vajpayee indeed was a great leader of India in the present context. He was praised for his commitment and conviction profusely across the political spectrum in India. That way Farooq Abdullah did nothing wrong.
But what was disparaging on the part of Farooq Abdullah was his slogan shouting. It was unfathomable as what Farooq Abdullah wanted to prove by raising slogans like “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Jai Hind”. The National Conference President has every right to raise slogans of his choice. But given the context and nature of the function, Farooq Abdullah seemed playing to the galleries.
There is no elected government in Jammu and Kashmir. Presently, the state is under Governor’s rule. After dislodging Mahbooba Mufti from the seat of the chief minister, BJP is weighing options for putting in place a government of its own choice. Scheming against PDP and luring in the required number of MLAs from it has not worked for the BJP so far.
The JK Assembly has still a life of two and half year. Governor’s rule is not an option to be extended till next elections. No party or MLA is in favour of by-election too. That makes the government formation the only available choice.
Second more important thing that happened recently is charge-sheeting of Farooq Abdullah in cricket scam. On July 16, CBI filed charge-sheet against Farooq Abdullah and three others including a bank official for alleged misappropriation of funds of Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) by opening a bogus bank account. Farooq Abdullah was the President of the JKCA when irregularities worth Rs. 113 crore were noticed in the state cricket body between 2001 and 2011.
This puts Farooq Abdullah’s slogan shouting to a proper context.
It is unlikely that Farooq Abdullah has studied theatre in any formal sense but on occasions his theatrics can beat any professional actor. His Vajpayee-speech was a master piece about his dramatic behaviour.
Few would dispute with the fact that Farooq Abdullah is not committed to any political thought or ideology. He knows the art of adjusting himself to any situation. From a keen separatist to an impeccable Indian, Farooq Abdullah can adopt to any position that is demanded by the situation. On a given day one would find him delivering religious sermons asking people to adhere to Islamic teachings and values. The next moment, he could be spotted flirting with film actresses or singing hymns in a temple in praise of Hindu gods.
He is, no doubt, a master in the dark art of obfuscation.
When Afzal Guru was hanged, he justified it by saying “Afzal Guru was hanged according to procedure. His mercy petition was put before president. He rejected it. The matter is over.” A year later (during election days) he said that Guru’ hanging was unjustified. The doublespeak was deliberate, and a calculated use of rhetoric. He wanted to please, both, Delhi and people of Kashmir equally. He knows it for sure that peoples’ memory is quite short, and issues and events are taking over each other so quickly that common people in Kashmir might have forgotten his earlier stand.
Farooq Abdullah has got benefitted by such rhetoric in the past.
In 1974, when his father Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah was negotiating with Indira Gandhi his return to power, Farooq Abdullah visited Pakistan and held meetings with JKLF leaders MaqboolBhat and Amanulah Khan and took oath of allegiance to Maqbool Butt promising to work for ‘liberation of Kashmir from India’. On his return from Pakistan, he held a massive rally in LalChowk which was addressed by two youth from Mirpur (PAK) besides him. The rally was viewed as Farooq Abdullah’s rebellion against his father’s compromise with New Delhi. But a decade later, Farooq Abdullah, who had assumed power after the death of his father in 1982, signed death warrant of Maqbool Butt who was hanged in Tihar jail on February 11 1984.
In his initial days, Farooq Abdullah as chief minister, adopted anti Congress face. It was his opposition to Indira Gandhi that NC supporters posed naked before Indira Gandhi during her election meeting in Srinagar’s HazuriBagh (now Iqbal Park) in 1983. Farooq Abdullah hosted a conference of all India anti Congress leaders in Srinagar, which ultimately led to his fall in 1984 through an inner party coup engineered by the Congress.
Farooq Abdullah took another U-Turn in 1986 by working out an understanding with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and returned to power in alliance with the Congress. His alliance with Congress continued till the eruption of militancy in the state in 1990 when Jammu and Kashmir was placed under governor’s rule.
In 1996 when Farooq Abdullah returned power in the state, he termed his past alliance with Congress as ‘great blunder’ and declared not to do any business with Congress anymore. In 1999, he aligned with BJP and got his son Omar Abdullah installed as minister in A B Vajpayee-led government. He went on with his ties with BJP even after Muslim massacre in Gujrat.
In 2008, Farooq Abdullah again changed his position like a dirty shirt and went into alliance with the Congress not only in the state but also at the centre as well. Through this alliance he earned the seat of chief minister for his son and a ministerial berth for himself at the Centre.
After his party’s and Congress’s defeat in the last parliamentary and assembly elections, Farooq Abdullah, tried for yet another tie-up with BJP but without any success. It was Mufti Mohammad Saeed who stole march over Abdullah then. Now when the field is open again, Farooq Abdullah’s hanging round the BJP should not be surprising.
(The writer is a senior journalist)