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7The Rediff Special


The Rediff Special/B K Nehru

Congress leaders wanted Farooq to be dismissed and replaced by a Congress nominee

B K Nehru with Farooq Abdullah Mufti Sayeed was the president of the Congress party of Jammu and Kashmir. His loyalty to the country was unquestionable; so was his lack of any communal feeling. The Mufti did not, however, seem to me to have the breadth of depth of vision necessary to determine the policies of the Government of India towards Kashmir. This required, among other things, the placing of the national interest way above that of the party interest. This, in common with other politicians, Mufti Sayeed was not capable of doing.

In his thinking, and he was certainly not exceptional in this, what was good for the Party was ipso facto good for the country. It was good for the Congress party to wield political power in Jammu and Kashmir; ergo it was in the national interest that it should so wield it. To this was, of course, added the consideration that if the Congress party did somehow manage to occupy the seats of power, the premier occupant of those seats would be Mufti Mohammed Sayeed himself.

The influence of Makkhan Lal Fotedar, who occupied no official position either in the government or in the party, over Indira Gandhi (and subsequently over her son) was to me inexplicable. His total political experience was limited to having served for a short term as deputy minister in Kashmir through the grace and favour of D P Dhar in one of the Delhi-nominated governments of the state which pretended to have been elected. He subsequently became Indira Gandhi's election agent in Rae Bareli; the physical proximity which this created seems to have been responsible for his influence.

Farooq Abdullah It is not unknown, in fact it is a fairly common experience, that men and women with no particular education or intelligence or character have, solely on the basis of their unlimited access to the centre of supreme power, had great influence on it. What Fotedar was advising on Kashmir was devoted entirely to the return to power of the Congress party without any regard for morality, the Constitution or the national interest.

When it became apparent that the governor was not willing to remove Farooq in the hole and corner manner in which alone the operation could have been successful, it became necessary to remove the governor himself. In order to do this, it was necessary to sow the seeds of distrust of the governor in the mind of the prime minister, and insofar as they might have existed already, sedulously to water them.

Not being able to find any credible weapon with which to attack him, they took the line that he was a personal friend of Farooq and, therefore, biased in his favour. The first evidence I had of this was a message from the prime minister brought to me by Tikkibhai saying that I should not go as often to Farooq's house as I did.

Mufti Mohammed Sayeed Tikkibhai was surprised, as the prime minister should have been, to learn from me that I had visited Farooq's house only once during my entire stewardship of the state and that was when he had invited my wife and myself to dinner in Jammu to meet his mother who was visiting him from Srinagar.

The other charge was that I was a drunk; the basis of my friendship with Farooq was alleged to be our common fondness for alcohol. This charge was, I presume, based on my making no secret of the fact that I enjoyed a glass of whisky in the evening and did not have to go to the bathroom to do this, as those who had signed the Congress pledge of teetotalism had to do to satisfy their craving. I often received official visitors in the evening and invariably offered them a drink, including alcohol, if they so desired.

Most visitors were genuinely abstainers; Mufti Sayeed refused my alcoholic hospitality though he did not, all credit to him, claim to be a non-drinker. Farooq did drink but not often and in very small quantities. The only visitor and friend who appreciated good whisky and made no bones about drinking it copiously was D D Thakur. If a complaint of bias had to be justified on the ground of common tippling, it could only be justified in favour of Thakur who ultimately became the brain behind the conspiracy against Farooq.

Farooq Abdullah The fact that the National Conference had won 38 seats in the valley and the Congress had won only two did not deter Mufti Sayeed from dreaming dreams of becoming chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. From 1953 to 1975 chief ministers of that state had been nominees of Delhi. Their appointment to that post was legitimised by the holding of farcical and totally rigged elections in which the Congress party led by Delhi's nominee was elected by huge majorities.

What Mufti Sayeed, M L Fotedar and their followers really wanted was that Kashmir should revert to the status quo ante the Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah Accord of 1975 and that Farooq should be dismissed and replaced by a Congress nominee. Then these gentlemen could once again enjoy the prestige and the power and the pelf of office which in a regime of impartial democratic elections they could not possibly hope ever to do.

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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