Edited Excerpts from an interview
Have you thought of writing a memoir like your father? What will its title be?
Yes, I am writing it. It is titled My Struggle.
Can you throw more light on your memoir?
No. For that you will have to read the book.
It is said that you were a reluctant entrant into politics.
No, I was not reluctant. I came back to the Valley in 1976, a year after Sheikh Abdullah (Farooq’s father) returned to politics. I saw that my father was not able to meet everyone. He needed inputs other than from his colleagues. So, I wanted to share something which others were unable to provide him. I started telling him what all needs to be done. During that time there was a lot of misunderstanding between New Delhi and Srinagar which led to the dismissal of many state governments, including the Sheikh Abdullah government in 1953. These misunderstandings were created by vested interests. So, in 1980, I told my father that I would like to join politics. He told me not to opt for politics; he said politics is like a river and one should have the courage to flow against the current. He never had time for family matters and he feared the same might happen to me as well. But I told him that I need to do it and see how best I could manage the situation. I tried to do as much as I could. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and others were not happy with this. They kept planning various moves and in 1977 they dismissed my father’s government yet again. Governor’s rule was imposed but luckily we had a good governor and the Congress was no longer in power in Delhi. Morarji Desai was the prime minister then. I am grateful to Morarji for two things: Firstly, he held the election against the advice of many and said that it would be free and fair. Secondly, I am grateful to him for returning my Indian citizenship. I had become a British citizen while practising as a doctor in England. It was he who returned my citizenship to me. Had the Congress been in power I would have never got it.
Is it true that the dismissal of your government in 1982 made you realise the importance of having a good relationship with the central government? Your son Omar also said the same in a recent tweet.
I will be very frank with you. We don’t have the resources. For everything we have to beg now. During my time, the total tax revenue we used to get was less than Rs 800 crore and our salary expenditure was Rs 5000 crore. Look at the difference. Forget about the development of the roads, agriculture, horticulture and tourism sectors; we had no money even for basic things. So, unless we had a good relationship with the Centre there was no way we could get anything. For example, when there was a drought in Jammu, the minister of agriculture was Bhajan Lal. We provided a helicopter to him to tour the areas. Everywhere he announced that he will give compensation. The promised amount came to around Rs 1600 crore. Do you know what we got? We got nothing. I had to cut my own budget by compromising on infrastructural development to give Rs 37 crore to the farmers. So, I gave farmers the tools, seeds and fertilisers.
Today what is the situation? He (Mufti) is facing the same crisis. The people he has teamed up with aren’t giving him anything. He has brought the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) here. What has he got in return? Nothing.
Don’t you think it affects the credibility of the Kashmiri leaders as they are toeing the line of Delhi at the cost of their people’s welfare?
Do people realise this? If they realise this why don’t they vote in huge numbers? If they realise these things then they should work for the cause that we stand for. We may have made mistakes but our cause is still alive. We have not drifted away from our goal. It remains the same. But people do not realise this. Everybody wants a government job. Where is the government job? One post is held by 10 people. What has happened to us? The same money which could be utilised for education and health is spent on employees’ salaries. If there is a strike, everyone goes to work except for government servants because the latter gets paid irrespective of whether they work or not.
What does a PDP-BJP government mean for J&K? How momentous is the entry of the Sangh Parivar into the Valley?
People should realise whom they voted for. I was also with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) once. Did I bring the RSS here? Did I bring the BJP here? You see the BJP flags in the secretariat now. We had a different relationship with them.
Alongside the PDP your party was also discussing government formation with the BJP which didn’t succeed.
When? This time? They (BJP) wanted us, not the other way around. There is no doubt about that. They did not want to sit with him (Mufti) as they felt he is not the right man. But we did not agree with the BJP. Omar spoke to his colleagues and everyone said no. So, I couldn’t go against the wishes of the people. It is the people who matter. So we decided against a government formation with the BJP. Kursi ke peeche bhagna galat hai. Kursi khud aapke peeche bhagegi agar aap ke sahi tareeqe hain (It is wrong to chase power. Power will chase you if your methods are appropriate). Don’t forget it.
Why did the NC fare badly in the elections? What does it need to do to avoid a repeat of the same?
(Laughs) There are a number of reasons. We could not sell our achievements to the people. Our media relations was very weak. Many of our candidates should not have been repeated. We should have given chance to younger people who are untainted. They would have learnt from their seniors. We repeated old horses. The younger generation did not like it.