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Bengaluru: In the early 1980s, a heated discussion consumed the discourse in the Karnataka Legislative Council, A.K.Subbiah, a senior member of the Jan Sangh, targeted Chand Mahal Ibrahim, the minister for food & civil supplies under the Gundu Rao-led Congress government, for opulence as he flashed a Rolex watch.
Ibrahim, who had risen to public significance as a labour leader and socialist candour, sported a watch with an insignia of a Falcon. The newly inducted minister said that it was a gift from a Saudi prince.
That was an era where ostentatiousness elicited more disdain from the masses than scams or scandals did.
The value of the watch exceeded the price permitted limit under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, prompting Subbiah to raise the issue.
“Subbiah alleged that the insignia was a passport for me to visit the UAE. It is common for friends in political circles to give gifts to each other,” Ibrahim told The Times of India in 2016 when a similar allegation had been levelled against then chief minister Siddaramaiah.
“At those times were a period when honesty, integrity, commitment, was counted. At that point of time, there was an issue with this Rolex watch. That cost him (Ibrahim) his ministership,” senior Congress leader B.L.Shankar told ThePrint.
The 74-year-old has rarely stayed out of the news, although not always for the right reasons. On Friday, Ibrahim was expelled by former prime minister H.D.Deve Gowda from Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) for ‘anti-party activities’.
After traversing between the Congress and the Janata Party, back to the Congress and then the JD(S), the leader is now partyless even though he is trying to take control of the Deve Gowda-led outfit.
He has opposed the JD(S) alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has tried to mobilise support for his stand.
“We will soon have a meeting either in Ahmedabad or Bengaluru to bring back the old Janata Party together who are against allying with the BJP,” Ibrahim told ThePrint in mid-October. He has had little success since then.
Also Read: How crisis in JD(S) over alliance with BJP paves way for Kumaraswamy to take over
‘Greed forcing his hand’
Ibrahim has come to be known over the years for his sharp wit and excellent oratory skills and rarely ever for his politics. Not to say he hasn’t achieved much, but mostly because he was always at the right place at the right time.
In 1996, he was named civil aviation, tourism, information & broadcasting minister when Deve Gowda became the prime minister.
But more recently, he has come to be known as the person who has missed more by his “greedy” attitude. “He was too greedy. Had three years left as MLC (in the Congress), but shifted after he was not made LoP in the Upper House. He thought that he can become a minister if there is a coalition government, but the Congress got a full majority,” a JD(S) leader said.
Ibrahim is a staunch supporter of Siddaramaiah and followed him to the Congress in 2008. The first picture a person sees when entering his home office in Benson town in Bengaluru is that of him laughing with Siddaramaiah.
“JD(S) is an old bus. Its engine was Siddaramaiah and I was the gearbox. Since I left, only the steering is left with Kumaraswamy,” Ibrahim told an election rally at the time.
With no constituency as such, he was unable to hold ground unless under the umbrella of either Deve Gowda or Siddaramaiah — the only two leaders who gave him any importance.
At one point, he was called the “translator” to Deve Gowda, who did not have any command over Hindi when he became PM, senior JD(S) leaders say. He remained a close confidant of the JD(S) chief and even his ‘spokesperson’.
When the JD(S) chief was the prime minister, Ibrahim once complained to then The Indian Express editor-in-chief (now editor-in-chief ThePrint) Shekhar Gupta that there were only pictures of Deve Gowda sleeping making it to the news.
“Arrey Bhai, yeh aadmi (Deve Gowda) saara din prime minister nahin hai. From 9am-7pm, he is prime minister of India. From 7pm to midnight, he is chief minister of Karnataka, from midnight 2 am he is district magistrate of Hassan, then at 4.30 am he has to get up for puja, then breakfast and then back to being prime minister of India. So when can he sleep?” Gupta wrote in ‘National Interest’.
‘Speaker, not politician’
Ibrahim is blamed for Bengaluru not getting an airport much sooner. In 1995-96, salt-to-software conglomerate Tata had a plan to build an airport near Bidadi, just outside Bengaluru. But talks with Ibrahim, the then civil aviation minister, fell through and the city did not get a new airport till 2008, two leaders with direct knowledge of the episode, told ThePrint.
But his biggest asset was his public speaking skills. In the late 1970s, people travelled from quite some distance to listen to Ibrahim speak at Nehru park in Sheshadripuram of Bengaluru. With his wide-framed dark spectacles and unique oratory skills, Ibrahim was a crowd puller.
Effortlessly quoting from Hindu scriptures as well as the Quran, Ibrahim was seen as an “educated politician by the uneducated people”, said one person who has been associated with him for at least three decades now.
It was his fluency in multiple languages, including Urdu, Hindi and Kannada, that earned him relevance despite not really emerging as a ‘Muslim leader’.
He tried to take on Congress leaders Jaffer Sharief, Azeez Sait and others, but with little success. At any public event, Ibrahim kept crowds entertained and engaged until the bigger leaders showed up.
“Most of the time he quotes from the Upanishads, Basavanna…that way he is clever and wanted to project himself as an intellectual,” said a JD(S) veteran.
Ibrahim could not be contacted for comment.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
Also Read: Why Deve Gowda’s son Revanna thinks Muslims won’t desert JD(S) after alliance with BJP
We update regularly World Latest Breaking News here. We update 2023-11-20 08:50:25 this news story from official website – https://theprint.in/politics/a-politician-known-more-for-wit-than-politics-deve-gowdas-translator-who-is-cm-ibrahim/1850721/.”
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