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Runaway politician

NCP leader Tariq Anwar did in school what the BJP has, of late, been doing: try communalism when nothing else works.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2006 01:41 IST

NCP leader Tariq Anwar did in school what the BJP has, of late, been doing: try communalism when nothing else works. When his headmaster in the co-ed school where he studied ruled in favour of shorts, Tariq and his gang felt ‘very exposed’ in the presence of girls. They sought permission to wear trousers, which was flatly refused. Tariq then decided to use the ‘Muslim angle’. He told the headmaster that Islam did not allow boys to wear shorts and, therefore, the rule should be relaxed for him. The ploy did not work.

Boys being boys, they decided to do what came to be known as the ‘double decker’ trick: wear trousers over shorts. Trousers for when the girls were around and shorts when the headmaster came calling. In school plays, the only role earmarked for him was that of Meer Kallu, a known perjurer.

Tariq hated school. He was barely eight when he ran away from home to escape attending it. The first time, a taxi driver brought him back. The second time, it was a village patwari known to his grandfather. Concluding that “no one could be trusted in this cruel world”, Tariq decided to board a midnight train to Patna. Night, he realised, had distinct advantages: family friends do not prowl around and ticketless train travel goes undetected. Consequently, among the two things people remember about Tariq’s younger days are him ‘running away from home’ and travelling without a ticket.

Like they remember the serious bid he made in films. When the Film Institute in Pune was scouting for young talent, Tariq was among the first to apply. He spent all his savings getting himself photographed in ‘different poses and different dresses’, alternating between a tragic hero and comedy king. Confident that he would one day make it to where his idols Dilip Kumar (tragedy) and Shammi Kapoor (comedy) were, he once again prepared to run away from home. This time he could afford a train ticket and a few meals, but he abandoned the idea for fear of failure. His ‘helpful friends’ had told him that he neither had the Kumar-Kapoor talent nor their looks.

Therefore, when politics came his way, he joined it for want of anything better. “I was zero in academics, I could not pursue sports because there were no training facilities and when it came to films, I developed cold feet. The only option left was politics, so here I am,” he says, conceding that Congress leader Sitaram Kesari was his mentor. Among the many other things Kesari encouraged Tariq to do was to contest the parliamentary elections in 1971. Under Kesari’s wings, it was smooth sailing for Tariq, despite stiff opposition from stalwarts like Jagannath Mishra.

Politics, though, did bring him face to face with his childhood idols: Dilip Kumar and Hema Malini. “I may not have co-starred with them in films but I have rubbed shoulders with them in Parliament,” Tariq says, visibly excited about the first time he spoke to Dilip Kumar or walked up to Hema Malini in Parliament to tell her that he was star-struck.