In a first for an Indian politician, Kashmir’s Omar Abdullah has put his best face on for the cover of GQ, a men’s lifestyle magazine.
Style is not something associated with the Khadi brigade who have been betrayed by Mamata Banerjee in her crumpled saris and Mayawati’s handbag obsession.
Now Abdullah is being compared to the dapper US President Barack Obama whose personal style is as talked about as his pronouncements.
Abdullah himself pays sartorial homage to his mixed heritage by combining elements of the West with classic Kashmiri style.
One of the few politicians to enter a legislative house in Western wear, he looks as comfortable in a traditional karakul (boat-shaped felt cap) as in a golf-shirt and jeans. Close shorn hair and sunglasses complete the look. “My mum brought us up with the understanding that we were always going to be watched. We were always going to be judged,” he says.
During the run-up to his election in November 2008, his more excitable supporters took to calling him “Kashmir’s Obama”. He’s not comfortable with the label. “Expectations are often too high and it has to be tempered by a dose of realism.”
Abdullah started his career in the hospitality industry. “People ask me about my change of career, but all I’ve done is gone from selling hotel bookings to selling myself.”
Wife Payal says his biggest vice is that he does not dance. “His mum is British, so he has that stiff upper lip. He’s boring.”