The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brake on Farooq dream

Srinagar, Dec. 15: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had to choose between the lifestyle followed by predecessor Farooq Abdullah and one he wanted to sell to the people. After a month of deliberation, he has decided to live as a common man’s chief minister.

As Mufti will not stay in the palatial building whose construction had been started by Abdullah, work on the project has come to a halt. And Abdullah’s dream of building a palace on the banks of Dal Lake for the chief minister to live in has gone up in smoke.

For his dream building on the banks of Dal Lake, Abdullah had coordinated closely with architects and engineers. The only problem was that it would cost Rs 25 crore.

“It was virtually going to be a palace, with an auditorium, Cabinet room, private office, guest house and many other attractive features,” wrote a leading Kashmir daily.

“It was planned on a grand Mughal style. The way Emperor Jehangir built himself a pleasure haunt in the form of the Shalimar Gardens, which also overlooks the Dal Lake and has the pristine Zabarwan forests as its backdrop,” a political observer said.

Most regal constructions, starting from the Mughals to the Dogra maharajas to the Abdullahs, have been built around the Dal Lake. “Perhaps the tastes of all rulers ultimately become synchronous,” says an observer. The royal custom was not dispensed with even after a democratic regime came to power.

But Mufti has no roots to tie him to palatial addresses. He belongs to a peasant family, whose vocation at one time was imparting religious education to villagers. Accordingly, proximity to the people is all that seems to matter to him.

Mufti has chosen a comfortable, centrally-located house on Maulana Azad Road in Srinagar as his official residence, though this might have compromised his personal security to some extent. The house is not overflowing with modern devices, but has a history that might help boost Mufti’s image as the person with the “healing touch”.

The house used to be the residence of Kashmir’s most accessible chief executive, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad. Thousands of people from all over the state would come to the house for favours or to redress grievances. This endeared Bakshi to Kashmiris who called him Bate Bab (breadwinning father) despite accusations of nepotism and corruption.

, which till then was not commonplace here, Bakshi won the hearts of the Kashmiris.

Mufti is already seen in the role of a healer of wounds. He is also said to be focusing on accountability in politics and civil services, to which Bakshi is accused of having turned a blind eye.

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