He would love to take on more commissioned work, now that he has quit his day job with the Times of India.
This appeared in the Asian Age...
All it takes is 7 missing buffaloes….!
The Lord be praised! Seven stolen buffaloes of Urban Development Minister, Azam Khan, were finally located after a massive, night long buffalo hunt which was launched by Rampur SSP Sadhna Goswami, using the services of a crack team , including sniffer dogs. The retrieved buffaloes cost three Uttar Pradesh policemen their postings, to say nothing of their prestige within the force. Their crime? They were on night patrol duty at the time the buffaloes went missing. We don’t know what the buffaloes feel about their kidnapping and eventual rescue, but clearly, the Ministerji is vastly relieved. Obviously, this particular gentleman was very attached to his buffaloes. So attached, in fact, that he thought nothing of using state machinery on a priority basis to search for his cattle, keeping everything else on hold. Five police teams fanned out to conduct raids across Rampur. Investigators from the district police’s crime cell were also called in, as the enraged Minister expressed his anguish in no uncertain terms. This level of police servility towards political bosses is not restricted to Uttar Pradesh, alone. In Maharashtra, we are witnessing blatant political manipulation / interference in police appointments as Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan takes his own sweet time to name a Police Commissioner. As always, the voice of citizens will be ignored while political parties fight over what is possibly the most coveted police appointment in the country.
Which is why Azam Khan’s blatant misuse of his position has not shocked the rest of India. In Uttar Pradesh, of course, this form of netagiri has traditionally been condoned. Uttar Pradesh with its hopelessly feudal thinking will naturally accept Azam Khan ordering local police personnel to find his missing buffaloes – or else! Never mind that his atrocious behaviour draws attention to the apathy displayed by the State administration towards riot victims still suffering in Muzaffarnagar camps. For Azam Khan, the lives of those orphaned, starving children are obviously worth much less than the price of his precious buffaloes. While we keep talking nonchalantly about the many Indias that co-exist cheek-by-jowl within a radius of five miles, do we forget the century we are living in? The context? The crisis? Of course, we do. Azam Khan is emblematic of this anomaly. He thinks and behaves like a medieval zamindar, focused on rural concerns that are narrow and selfish in the extreme. How can this man be in charge of urban development? Does nobody see the irony of his portfolio? And if somebody does, should he not be removed from this ministry immediately? Does he even know the meaning – separately and together – of those two words ?
Perhaps, Azam Khan has inadvertently become the face of Elections 2014. And in Azam Khan’s deplorable conduct, we can read the terrifying text of the real conflict that faces India today. Simply put, it is the vast rural-urban divide. The chasm has grown to an extent that now appears unbridgeable to voters. It is going to be the dramatic contest between the Chaiwalla and the Latte drinker, isn’t it ? Between buffaloes and Bentleys. There seems to be no in- between option at this point. Narendra Modi has shrewdly positioned himself as that Chaiwalla who represents the majority. While poor Rahul Gandhi struggles to strike a credible balance between his love for the Italian Cappuccino and his desi obligations. If one can understand that, one can decode what took place in Rampur. What is scary is the fact that more people in Uttar Pradesh condone Azam Khan, than condemn him. “It is our way of life in these parts,” they shrug. And so it is!
In a bizarre development, Aam Aadmi Arvind Kejriwal shocked admirers by justifying the power of Khap Panchayats by providing a pseudo-cultural context to them.We are likely to witness many more such stands getting direct endorsements from politicians as a run up to Elections 2014. Hardly anybody is talking about development in real terms. Nobody has made women’s issues central to their political agenda. So far, they have opted for tokenism and talked around both subjects, gauging (accurately, perhaps) that these count for little in an election that is about asserting religious identity above all else. If that makes you uncomfortable, too bad. So, no amount of ‘zeher ki kheti’ speeches will impress or influence the voter. The numbers will only kick in from those looking for a leader who promises everyone a quick fix. A quick fix that comes with an important rider – Hindutva. Everything else is icing on the cake - just a way to dress up the main dish and make it more appetizing. Narendra Modi has sensed the mood. Sonia Gandhi can call him a ‘Maut ka Saudagar’ a thousand times over. But this Chaiwalla has cleverly figured Indians don’t give a damn about ‘zeher’ - they love tea. And Indians also love ‘natak’. If Modi sounds more and more like a Gujarati stage actor performing at Mumbai’s famous Bhang Wadi in the ‘80s, it is by design. Modi’s campaign is specifically geared to win over the Lost Indian. The one who’s unable to figure out the better option - should it be a pricy Latte at a neighbourhood Starbucks or a cutting chai at a local dukaan? Modi has the answer! It is obvious: the era of snobby public school lads and Oxbridge intellectuals running the show from Delhi is finally over.
There’s not much of a difference between Azam Khan and Narendra Modi, after all. In India, the buffalo always wins.