Dr. Farooq Abdullah, the long time Chief Minister of the troubled Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, is an elusive personality in the state. He is reported to spend a lot of his time in London, and had to be recalled urgently several times by the central government during crises. His ultimate ambition is to become the president of India, a ceremonial post more to his liking than the rough and tumble at the helm of a state stricken by Pakistani terrorism. He is reported to be grooming his son Omar as the next chief minister. For this month's Satire issue, a Kashmir Herald correspondent managed to catch up with him in one of Farooq's rare appearances in Srinagar. We present the resulting exclusive interview below
Kashmir Herald Correspondent: Salam Wal-e-kum, Doctor Sahib.
Dr. Farooq Abdullah: Good Evening!
KH: So please tell us how are things in the Valley?
FA: Valley? Which Valley?
KH: Kashmir Valley, Sir.
FA: Oh!! I thought you were talking about Nainital Valley. I am going there next week to play golf with Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar. Kashmir Valley, you see, lately I have not spent lot of time here. So I donít know what exactly is going on out here. I hear some stories from my staff. But you know how much I trust them.
KH: Why? Arenít they telling you the truth?
FA: You kidding? Truth and politics donít go together. Have you just started your career? You need to learn a lot.
KH: Sure. So what is going on with the upcoming elections?
FA: Elections? What elections? Did Vajpayee declare a mid-term poll? Or are you talking about Presidential Elections?
KH: No Sir. I am talking about Assembly elections here in J&K.
FA: Oh! J&K! Who cares? You know, I am more interested in knowing who the candidates are for Presidential election. You see, that has been my childhood dream.
FA: Yeah! You see, that is the coolest job. You have no responsibility. No work. No commitments to public. That is what I love. Once in a while, I will have to make a speech to the nation. I donít even have to write that one. Cabinet will write it for me. All I have to do is read. That is me. You know, that is me. I can picture myself in that role. Finally I can devote all my energies to golf and partying.
KH: HmmmÖThat seems interesting. But what about J&K? What is going to happen here?
FA: What about J&K? Life goes on in J&K. It was okay without me. It is okay while I am here. And it will be okay without me.
KH: But donít you worry about your party cadres and your party National Conference?
FA: Oh! Yeah. For that, I am bringing Omar back to J&K. He will be the next Chief Minister.
KH: But how can you predict that? Elections are yet to be held.
FA: I told you, you need to learn a lot. If Farooq Abdullah wants Omar to be the next CM, Omar will be the next CM. That is it. It is as simple as that.
KH: But what about other parties?
FA: What other party? Do you think Congress or BJP can make a government in J&K. No, Never.
KH: What about Hurriyat? What if they agree to participate in the elections?
FA: You think, they will. They will never agree. They love their own self more than the cause. If they run for elections, they will get killed.
KH: Killed? By whom?
FA: By whom, you ask? You donít know? Well, I am not going to say it on the record.
KH: What if they do participate in elections?
FA: So what? They might get some seats. We will make a coalition government. I donít have any issue working with them. After all they are my own brothers.
FA: Yeah. You see, we have the same cause. And that is to keep India bleeding. We have some of the richest people of India in J&K. We have one of the highest per capita income in J&K. It is so funny. We donít generate any revenue of our own. Nobody pays electricity fees. Nobody pays water fees in Kashmir. We donít tax our wealthiest. You know that there is no wealth tax in J&K. Donít you?
KH: Yes. I know.
FA: I love this Article 370. It gives us so many benefits. But we still complain. You know what? That is the best strategy. And Hurriyat will need me for that. I am master of that strategy.
KH: Can you elaborate on that strategy?
FA: You see, whenever we run out of money, I scream ĎAutonomyí, ĎPre-1953 statusí and central government immediately approves another economic package for J&K. It is actually an economic package for Kashmirís wealthiest. And some of them are part of Hurriyat. Some of them are part of National Conference. Some play ĎGood Copí. Some play ĎBad Copí. I believe in ĎSharingí. So we all share our benefits. That is what we call Kashmiriyat. Long Live Kashmiriyat!!!
KH: So how is your relationship with Central government?
FA: It is great. My son is having fun as Minister of State for External Affairs. I am trying to get him promoted. But that Jaswant Singh guy is the bottleneck. May be next government will help him.
KH: What do you mean by next government? Are you leaving National Democratic Alliance (NDA)?
FA: Did I say that? The one lesson I learnt from my dear father Sher-e-Kashmir has helped me a lot.
KH: What is that?
FA: Always support one party.
KH: And which one is that?
FA: Ruling Party.
KH: That explains it all. Thank you very much Doctor Sahib. That was very enlightening. Wish you good luck in your future endeavors.
FA: Thank you. See you next time in Rashtrapati Bhawan.
KH: Sure. Khuda Haafiz!