However, given a choice between being a politician or a businessman, he candidly confesses, “I guess Farhan, the human being, is better. I think it helps both the roles. I need to fill my own stomach first to be able to help other fill theirs.”
The Samajwadi Party’s (SP) thumping victory in Uttar Pradesh earlier this year—one that is reckoned to be one of the biggest electoral victories in the state in the last two decades—is, in Farhan words, reason for his renewed confidence. “Akhilesh Yadav is extremely simple, down to earth and when one interacts with him, it doesn’t feel like one is interacting with the Chief Minister (CM). I talk to him like a friend and an elder brother. He is extremely supportive and infuses that confidence when one speaks to him.”
Added to the undisputed support that he garners from Akhilesh, the youngest CM, Farhan speaks highly of the inspiration that he tends to draw from his own father, Abu Asim Azmi. Expressing gratitude, he says, “My father has always taught us the right ways. I have always seen him behave and conduct himself extremely honestly and patriotically. He would give his life for the country even though a lot of people believe that he is anti-national and that his speeches instill hate. I know him and have seen him personally and I know he has put in his blood and sweat into it.”
When Farhan failed to tread a victorious path in the elections, he was subtly written off, more so because he lost in a constitution that was, in a sense, like the SP’s backyard. However, today that is a thing of the past. Farhan has bounced back into the political circuit as the President of the SP’s Mumbai branch of their youth wing, the Yuvajan Sabha. Speaking of the newly formed wing, Farhan informs, “A lot of things that I was speaking about in the party weren’t being spoken about. Like the modernisation of the party and connecting with girls because a lot of people were shying away from female members, fearing a character blotch. So, to reduce the generation gap between the senior and the younger members, a lot of people wanted me to come forward and take this post.” Keen and confident, Farhan intends to hold the post of President till 2014 and thereafter, there will be formal elections for the post, with the party adopting a democratic format.
With the dissolution of the party structure, nobody in the party except Farhan is holding a post. With the intent to begin from the scratch, Farhan hopes to ensure that every arm of the wing is directly connected with the party head office in UP. And that every member is able to connect with Akhilesh on a direct level, without having to go through the rigmarole of filtering through pesky bureaucrats. “We want transparency, modernisation and organisation because right now, we are extremely unorganised. We have a huge workforce and it is not being tapped in the right way. We want to put everything online and on smart phones. People are fine with technology today. Even if they don’t know how to operate it, they learn.”
A hiatus of three years in the political arena is quite a biggie, and Farhan took the chance. So, is this his comeback then? He dismisses the notion. “Honestly, this post is just a tag so that people connect officially. It is no different for me, just an added responsibility. And, I don’t think it’s a comeback, I have been as active. Of course, now it’s going to take up most of my time and my business is also going to take a beating but I don’t mind giving it five years and see where I can take it. Later, I’ll hand it over to somebody who can take it ahead.”
Against the backdrop of the rising interest of the youth in politics and with the recent reshuffling and induction of relatively younger members in the Indian cabinet, one is wont to ask Farhan of his national political aspirations. He philosophises, “Honestly, I have no political aspirations. I just wish to make a difference. And, that is exactly what my agenda is going to be. If I can make a difference to even one life in the country, maybe save a girl child, or help a poor man raise his field or even light one house, I’ll be happy. I am looking at something very basic and if that one life can join me and help me light some more houses and save some more lives, that is how I intend to create a force. I have no national or domestic aspirations. I will go with the flow and do what my party, Akhilesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and dad want me to do.”
Speaking of the youth uprising, Farhan adds, “I think the youth is already propagated and provoked and it has never been this active globally. More than 60 per cent of the Indian population comprises youth. It is below 40 years of age and they are the driving force. They have realised, enough of the grey haired leaders. With due respect to them, they can now take a backseat.” He continues in the same breath, “I propose that there should be a retirement age for a politician too like in every field. You are 90 and you still want to go ahead and lead the country when you can’t even read a document properly or understand it.”
Represented by the trademark red cap, the party’s youth cell has been Samajwadi Party’s constant, an active ground force that oversaw their rallies and elections. Like most political parties in the country, they too had a functioning youth cell despite which they launched a Mumbai wing, giving it a face, an identity. And, who better than Farhan to fit the bill? Much like the Shiv Sena which also had the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena until it went ahead and launched a separate body, the Yuva Sena, with the Thackeray scion Aaditya at its helm. So, is there a competition that Farhan can sense? He says, “There is obviously competition. We are at loggerheads with each other and I stand against the Shiv Sena and the BJP on many things. They are both communal parties, they like to polarise votes. Parties like the MNS should be banned because they are working and playing the hatred card like the British. They are dividing and ruling. Instead of connecting people, if one divides them for one’s own benefit, it’s ridiculous. Practising politics based on region, caste and colour is backward. If they continue to do so, they will suffer in the long run.”
Meanwhile, Farhan intends to work with horse blinders on. His crusade against the government will not discontinue. “What they have done to our country is extremely sad. We have gone back 25 years instead of going 100 years ahead. So, my way is going to be one where we are self-critical and better ourselves. What others are doing is not our business.” He adds, “We have saved the Congress government twice, which the country knows about. Without us, the nuclear deal and all the other bills they wanted passed in the Parliament would not have happened. The party is in full form right now and we need to cash in on that and make people aware that if the Samajwadi Party decides, we can pull out our support overnight and Mr Manmohan Singh will have to sit at home. We want to just take this force forward and make sure that in 2014, Mulayam Singh becomes the Prime Minister and nobody else.”
Rather than just furthering his political ambition, Farhan intends to work toward making the country a progressive one. A major step in that direction is the conceptualisation of Youth4change, a platform he is proposing to bring together young politicians across party lines. Speaking about the platform, he says, “Youth4Change is going to provide that connect between the elected candidates of the society and the voters who put them in office. It will scrutinise and let people know what steps are being taken. It will cut down corruption. It is an interactive body that will hold at least two youth summits every year with youth icons.”
A political career apart, it is his business that certainly adds dimension to his persona. With restaurants like Koyla, Cafe Basilico and Chai Coffi already under the Infinity Hotels (his business venture) canopy, he is now readying Basilico House in Goa, a 200-year-old heritage structure that is being converted into a 10-room hotel. He elaborates, “Basically, we are trying to create a house and not a hotel, that’s why it is called the Basilico House. It is an extended part of brand Basilico where we wish to make them feel at home.” That apart, Farhan is also planning to open Chai Coffi pan India.
There is always a lot on paper when it comes to politics. How much actually translates into reality is for the world to behold. As Winston Churchill once said, “Politics is not a game. It is an earnest business.” Farhan seems to have inherited the best of both, politics and business. His official political innings have just begun!
BY UJWAL SALOKHE