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The Rediff Special /B K Nehru

Farooq, Indira Gandhi complained, said 'Mummy Mummy' to her, promised to do exactly as she wanted and then went back and did exactly the opposite

B K Nehru B K Nehru, Indira Gandhi's cousin, was governor of Jammu and Kashmir when the prime minister decided that she wanted to get rid of Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah in the autumn of 1983. She disliked Abdullah so much that she even supported the chief minister's pro-Pakistan brother-in-law G M Shah in a palace coup.

In this fascinating extract from his much acclaimed recent biography, Nice Guys Finish Second,Nehru reveals what really happened during those tumultuous months, the aftermath of which is felt in the valley to this day.

The bitterness with which the (1983 assembly) election was fought was not due entirely to the failure of the National Conference to come to terms with the Congress party. It seems to me, with the benefit of hindsight, that Indira Gandhi had decided to get rid of Farooq as chief minister of the state even before the election. One reason she gave to me when she came out in the open was that he was unreliable, he said 'Mummy Mummy' to her and promised to do exactly as she wanted and then went back and did exactly the opposite.

B K Nehru with Indira Gandhi Further, he was incompetent in the administration of the state which was going to the dogs. Both these charges I could certify from personal experience were totally correct. The question, however, was whether they were enough to get rid of a chief minister, particularly of a state as sensitive as Jammu and Kashmir.. Unreliability was (and is) not an unusual characteristic among the politicians of India; if Farooq was unreliable, said one thing and did another, he was not exceptional. Nor was he the only chief minister who maladministered his state; there could be found examples of worse maladministration even among the states ruled by the Congress.

It was difficult for me to discover the real reason for what clearly had become a personal vendetta against Farooq. The only explanation I could think of, and which has been given to me by other people also, was an ugly incident that took place during Indira Gandhi's last election tour of the state. Just before her departure, she addressed a meeting in Iqbal Park in Srinagar. During the meeting some people, standing at the back of the audience which was large, lifted their phirans and displayed their nakedness in an obvious affront to Indira Gandhi.

Fori and I had gone straight from Raj Bhavan to the airport to see off the prime minister and were, of course, unaware of any such happening. But what we did notice, quite without doubt, was that she was in a rage. Her face was flushed in anger, she spoke to nobody (which was quite contrary to her usual behaviour) and entered her aeroplane without the normal civilities having been observed.

Indira Gandhi This incident was blamed on Farooq by the very interested gentlemen who surrounded her in Delhi and were her advisers on Kashmir. Their word was believed by her implicitly; that of the neutral and more objective observers, including the governor, was not. Farooq vehemently denied his involvement and this denial, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I fully believe simply because organising vulgarity like this would be completely contrary to his character.

Whatever Farooq's faults might have been, he was a thorough gentleman; it was impossible for him even to think of doing something so vile. He suggested that it might have been organised by Gul Shah. There was again no proof about this but I was and am quite prepared to believe that it was Gul Shah who was responsible, for that would be completely consistent with his normal behaviour. Strange to say that in all the continued discussions and arguments on Kashmir that I had with the prime minister in the ensuing months, no mention was ever made by her of this incident.

Mir Qasim says in his memoirs that his experience has shown 'that whenever New Delhi feels a leader in Kashmir is getting too big for his shoes it employs Machiavellian methods to cut him to size... Tale tellers, of whose black arts one heard in Mughal courts, play a magic role in this kind of conspiracy.' The prime minister's principal advisers on Kashmir were Mufti Sayeed, Makkhan Lal Fotedar and Arun Nehru.

Farooq Abdullah As for Arun, on my asking, he denies that he was giving her advice on Kashmir. She had ordered him to get rid of Farooq; this was what he was doing without asking why; it was not for him to ask questions. Arun may well be correct as he saw the situation himself. But viewed from Kashmir where Delhi's actions were having effect, it did not really matter whether an individual was the originator or only the implementer of those actions.

Excerpted from Nice Guys Finish Second, by B K Nehru, Viking, 1997, Rs 595, with the publisher's permission.

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B K Nehru, continued

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