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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Indian Election Analysis on Huffington Post; Extra

As I wrote my detailed analysis for Huffington yesterday, describing how Congress came to win so many seats and what happens next, memories flooded back.

As with politics and broadcast journalism in any country, the same figures emerge over the years and working on a territory for a long time means that some memories go back a long way.

Watching Farookh Abdullah, Chief of the Regional National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir talking about the election results (He is still powerful and a former Chief Minister of the State, a post now held by his son Omar) I was reminded about some time I spent with him when he was CM.

One 15th August I watched him give an Independence Day speech in a sports stadium in Indian Kashmir, empty save for uniformed and ununiformed personnel. I walked alongside as he stood in his open jeep, talking to him.

The next day I was invited to his office for an interview, and after telling him I also wanted some lifestyle material (he is famous for his taste in Delhi designers) he invited me to his residence for breakfast the following day.

The breakfast was delicious, just the CM and me, with discreet staff serving the courses Raj - style. Asking him about his taste in clothes, he showed me his extensive wardrobe and art work. While I was in the private quarters, I heard his telephone ring and when he answered, he was clearly having to remonstrate with an anxious staff member who was trying to convince the CM that I was an agent.

Farookh has known me for a long time and dismissed the call. He went on to proudly show me his games rooms and designer golf clubs and answer all my remaining questions, even posing for a photo.

I had been accompanied to the residence by a Kashmiri local who told me that while he was alone, waiting for me, he had a seriously uncomfortable encounter with security staff. To the extent that he felt subliminally threatened and got scared. He was shaking as we walked back to the car.

In beautiful Kashmir, we may have been having a quiet, tasty breakfast in a wooden mansion in an alpine forest, but the sense of being in a war zone never disappears.

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