Sunday, 17 March 2013

The War Ministry Contest: Short-list of 8 essays

ESSAY QUESTION: Azim Khan is India's first Muslim Prime Minister; is he an Indian Barack Obama or will he turn out to be another Jinnah? 
Winning essay was announced on 26th March by the chair of the judging panel, Ms Shereen Bhan, Executive Editor of CNBC-TV18. Video of the announcement. 

Azim Khan's journey into politics was borne out of a deep desire to make
a difference not just to his community but the country. To start off,
he used his community to plan his rise but slowly worked on expanding
his base. The culmination of this journey was his selection as the
first Muslim Prime Minister of India.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah entered into electoral politics from United
Provinces (currently Uttar Pradesh) after studying law and being a
prominent member of the Indian National Congress. Azim Khan too
entered politics from Uttar Pradesh through a targeted philanthropy
campaign riding on his grandfather's goodwill. Jinnah wanted to be the
spokesperson of the Muslim voice and was mentored by Mohammed
Iqbal, the advocate of the idea of Pakistan. Azim Khan too united the
Muslims under the auspices of the Nawab. Even in terms of lifestyle,
Azim Khan was similar to Jinnah. He married outside of his community,
had a suave and western outlook.

But the similarities with Jinnah end here. Azim Khan made concerted
efforts to reach outside his vote bank either through calculated
alliances or pan-India policies. Jinnah initially sought Hindu-Muslim
unity but after the 1937 election debacle became a vociferous
supporter of "Pakistan". Azim Khan on the other hand, was willing to
sacrifice his post for a national unity government.

Barack Obama became the 44th and the first black President of the
United States. The blacks like the Muslims are a minority community in
the US. But Obama didn't let this stop him from running for the top job or
hindering him in office. While Obama's election exposed the deep
fissures and prejudices in the country, Azim's selection as the PM was
hailed because the victory in the war sealed all doubts of his secular

Despite the Republicans enjoying a majority in the House, Obama was
able to push through some of his electoral promises like the Health
Care Act, Debt Ceiling Act etc through bi-partisan negotiations. Azim
Khan similarly was selected as PM after negotiations with Karan Nehru
and headed a grand coalition. Obama and Azim never let religion
interfere with their work and this can be clearly seen in Obama's case
in the public denunciation of his pastor Jeremiah Wright. Azim too
didn't handle the Ulemas and Maulanas very differently. When Obama
ordered his special troops to execute Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, he
was aware of the risks of such a mission and the international
reaction but he stuck to his guns. Azim, as a defence minister
displayed the same conviction when he sent his troops across
the border. The similarities don't end here because both had to deal
with an aggressive posturing China. Obama tried to push for market
reforms and monetary policy easing with China whereas Azim in
partnership with Karan had to placate them to prevent a full blown out

Despite beginning like Jinnah, Azim Khan diverged and displayed great
character as "India's Obama", a leader, a rare breed in India's current
political scenario.


a PM -

who 'prays' at the ALTAR of mother India with Gandhi, Nehru and Azad being his leading lights..

who leads the armed forces to victory on Pakistan and makes good on an old parliamentary resolution..

who stands up to the machinations of a superpower and who does not yield grounds to an irresponsible adversary to the east..

who pragmatically deals with a friend turned foe, endears himself to even the rightists..

who envisions a progressive, inclusive strategy for the country's growth..

who does not shy away from 'standing and fighting' while he delivers an extempore speech in the august house..

who refuses illogical alliances just to stay in power..

- how can such a PM be a Jinnah?? is he Barack Obama then??


he is PM Azim Khan - a nationalist, which is how it will/should remain.

Azim Khan, India’s first Muslim Prime Minister. A statement full of controversies. Mr. Khan, heading a shaky coalition also needs to prove his mettle. The question that arises when we talk about him is whether he is an Indian Barack Obama or will he turn out to be another Jinnah? I say that he is an Indian Barack Obama and not another Jinnah who not only divided our country but also initiated a bloodbath.
         Jinnah was always against Hindustan and the Congress. He never considered Hindustan his country and thus demanded another nation for Muslims. While heading the Muslim League, Jinnah’s foremost demand was a separate nation for the Muslims in form of Pakistan. He never deterred away from this demand of his. He was not a secular leader as well as his leadership was based on the fact that Hindus and Muslims are poles apart. He believed that Hindus and Muslims cannot unite and become ONE. He was the mind behind the thought of a country solely dedicated to Muslims.
               Barack Obama on the other hand is the total opposite of what Jinnah was. He is not only a secular leader but also a peace loving person. He ended the war with Afghanistan and also asked for his military troops to retreat back. Even in Iraq he ordered his troops to return back. He also won the Nobel Prize for Peace. He is a person who respects every nation’s individuality and aims to unite the world.
              Azim Khan, the then Defense Minister of India in the Naidu Government proved the world that he is first an INDIAN and then a Muslim. When he became the leader of the country, he was backed by the whole nation on the fact that he did not favour a Muslim nation. He is altogether an opposite of Jinnah because Jinnah fought for a separate nation and Azim Khan fought the same nation to save India from the clutches of terrorism. When the Shahi Imam, in a meeting with Ulema said obscene words to him against his Hindu wife, Radha Khan, he got enraged and warned the Imam of his limits. Even in his personal life he didn’t ask his wife to convert into Islam instead became part of all the celebrations whether it was Diwali or Holi. On the contrary he did not keep the fast of Ramzan. He possesses the skills of a good leader that is unlike Jinnah not biased to his religion. He proved his worth as a good leader when in the end he brought the opposition into the government thus silencing his enemies. He won thousands of hearts when he pushed Pakistan behind the Line-of-Control.
              Azim Khan is indeed an Indian Barack Obama and definitely not another Jinnah.

The book revolves around 2 main central characters Azim Khan and his once best friend and now the deputy PM Karan Nehru. There are mainly 4 political parties involved in the book that are Congress (I), Congress (N), IVP & the BJP.
As per my opinion after reading the book  I am taking the stand that Azim Khan is an Indian Barack Obama & he would not turn out to be another Jinnah. There are 2-3 instances stated in the book which make me lead to the above conclusion. After reading all the 2-3 instances written down under it be concluded that instead of favouring his decisions towards the Muslim community of which he himself was a part of – all the decisions taken by the Prime Minister Azim Khan were of maturity and in the best interest and security of his motherland and country India. He kept his country first in all his decisions and he did not allow his religion/his community to come in between his decisions.
1st Instance: Pages 104-105. In spite of the IVP party having secured a prominent section of its electoral votes from the Ulema which consisted of the Muslim community when Azim Khan was being asked by his close confidant Ajay to meet them in person and discuss with them if they have any issues under Azim Khan’s leadership he flatly refused stating that he had more important issues to handle which were of much more importance.  For him the issues that pertained to the security & interest of his country were much more important than a small cross section of the people that had constituted a large part of his vote bank.
2nd Instance: Pages 373-381. In Tibet with the self immolation of the monks taking place, it took a very sensitive turn and the entire pressure was on India as to how to handle the pressure so that the situation was not blown out of proportion. Azim Khan while he was giving the speech in the Parliament handled it very effectively and because it involved the government of 2-3 countries instead of blaming one particular community/religion/country for the incident he very politely explained to all the members of the Parliament what steps were being taken to avoid any further incidents. And at the same time after giving the due respect to the Tibetan community and the Buddhism religion he explained to all as to how it had its origin/beginnings in India and had now become a part of the Indian Culture. Also he made it very clear that terrorism would not be tolerated by India if it comes from across the cross border and it would be retaliated if the security of the country is being hampered at the cost of loss of innocent lives. By handling the situation in this manner he managed to respect the integrity and respects of all the nations involved and at the same time give a strong message to the other nations across the border that terrorism would not be tolerated at any cost.
3rd Instance: Pages 373-381.  In the later part of the book when it looked that the party of Azim Khan would fall from power and he would have to leave his post of the Prime Minister of India, he took upon himself to address all the doubts that were in the minds of his political counterparts in the Opposition party and all others in the Parliament & he choose to do that by answering each and every question that was personally asked to him by one and all. The only reason why he did that was because he held the interests of his motherland India first and his personal interests came later on. Even at the juncture of losing his power, all he wanted was that the next person who takes charge from him would accordingly take all decisions so that the integrity and security of India is not hampered with.
         From all the instances stated above – it can be clearly concluded once again that the actions of Azim Khan as an individual at the post of Prime Minister of India were being taken by him were for the protection, security & the overall development of the people and his country – India. This is similar to the characteristics that are possessed by Mr Barack Obama – current president of USA. The decisions taken by Mr Barack Obama – either spontaneously or after some thought are for the protection, security & the overall development of the people and his country – United States of America. And Azim Khan cannot turn out to be other Jinnah because for Azim Khan his overall goal was the development of people of India and economic prosperity and growth and not partition of India into smaller and smaller parts.

Azim Khan’s comparison to Barack Obama and Jinnah begins and ends with exceptional oratory skills and the “first” prefix. Although both Obama and Khan are leaders of the modern world and assumed leadership of countries in a pickle, their predicaments differ vastly, which allows little synergy in varied policies adopted by them.
            Azim Khan undoubtedly benefited from the Muslim vote; however, he does not wear his Muslim identity on his sleeve. He had no designs of either creating a separate state like Jinnah, nor was he solely advancing minority interests. His vision was clearly that of a secular and egalitarian state with a plain-speaking stance especially towards Uncle Sam. What is heartening to note in the end is the fact that, both Nehru and Khan overcome the toxicity and headiness of power and work towards the betterment of the country in unison.

Azim Khan will neither be the Indian Obama nor the Jinnah, for like the Zen saying - You can never step into the same river twice. Obama though a first Black president, inherited America and for a period of 4 years for sure and a maximum of 8 years, Azim Khan will have to defend his position every day as the coalition politics will continue in India. Obama inherited economic crisis, Azim gets a bit of that but a bigger moral crisis, corruption crisis to deal with. Like everything else in India his issues are diverse and exist in multitudes. Jinnah belonged to another era, those times have gone and so has the creation of leaders like him.

To compare a fictional character to either real life Obama or the historical perception of Jinnah is a rather silly question and undermines what the character and the book is trying to do. For me, Azim Khan's character is foremost an idea. A concept and a vision of what can happen to this country, if a leader who has balls (or a vagina) enough to take on all the issues this country faces head-on, without flinching. Azim is ruthless in pursuing his ideas and his ideals, so much so that everything else becomes secondary for him--pure honesty, friendship or love. Since he is the protagonist of a world created by the author (who I might add seems to idolise him at many levels), I read him as an idea that the country dreams of. In that way, he's a representative of the subconscious of young India. I stuck to all three books because this vision, this hope stayed with me throughout. Reading Khan's character in the world Singh built was pure catharsis in that way. At no point was I scared that his journey in the fictional world might lead to real world destruction. It was like watching a Bollywood movie (sorry, KP!) where this awesome hero kicks the butt of all the irritating goons and you go back to the 'real' world, with a smile and pay a bribe to the traffic cop because you parked illegally. Only here, Azim's character is kicking political butts. If he was real, I might have been on the streets revolting against a lot of decisions he took. I might have been scared at his highhandedness and the fact that he hid his past from the citizens. But because he's fictional, I can sit back and enjoy the awesome exchanges of dialogues and negotiations in the PM's office.

Azim Khan of the India Vikas Party (IVP) creates history when he takes oath as the first Muslim Prime Minister in India. In some ways this was an epoch making event similar to Barack Obama’s swearing in as the 44th President of the United States of America but the first African-American to make it to the list.
         KP Singh through his trilogy has made enough references indicating Azim’s secular and cosmopolitan credentials including his unflinching contempt of Muslim radicals and mullahs after his appointment as Prime Minister, his marriage with a Hindu woman and importantly, his war with Pakistan in national interest and hardline stance in the peace process clearly indicates his nationalist credentials and his indifference for parochial politics based on caste, religion or class.
          All these decisions clearly indicate that Azim Khan disapproved of the two-nation theory and communal policy that Jinnah stood for[1] and can definitely be described as a truly liberal and secular leader of modern India.  Just like Obama, Azim tries to be a global leader of stature rising above petty politics, differences and bigotry and giving national interest and economic development paramount importance as the resident of Teen Murti Bhavan.

[1]  Krishan Partap Singh, The War Ministry, p. 323. 


  1. Hello Mr. Singh,

    Although I could not submit the essay on time, I would like to seize the dais and mike to post my essay here. :)

    Jinnah, from what I know - refused to be the Prime Minister when Nehru offered to step down in his favour. His demand for Pakistan stemmed from the fact that he was insecure - insecure of getting a bright and equal footing for Muslims in a secular republic that India aimed to be.

    Azim Khan was also not after the post of Prime Minister. But there is absolutely no similarity between him and Jinnah because he was not insecure. He wanted to assert the fact that he was an Indian and needed no tags like the first Muslim Prime Minister.

    He was aware of the fact that as in the universe, the ideal does not exist and he will need to leverage the vote bank advantage to reach a post from where he can significantly control the national policies. This was the only reason that he agreed to be the PM and did everything possible to retain it.

    There comes a tipping point when every well-meaning politician has a choice between compromising his morals to retain power for the greater good or to quit the fray. If that threshold is crossed, the end result is hypocrisy - where the person in power stoops to doing the same things which he resented fundamentally.

    Jinnah had noble intentions at the outset, but he failed to strive and wait for the bigger picture. His faith in one India was converted to disbelief too soon. Azim Khan was always about patience and courage - ready to sacrifice anything for his goal of a stable India.The litmus test was when his government was subjected to pressure from religious outfits and he refused to compromise - even for holding on to power/stability to put some good policies in place.

    A song from Dev Anand's CID plays in my head right now, "Apne pe bharosa hai to ek daav laga le".. Azim Khan put it into practice and emerged with a strong identity as a citizen of his nation while Jinnah put the future of 2 nations on daav and left generations striving to solve their identity crisis.

    Azim Khan is and will remain a proud Indian citizen! No tags needed.

  2. P.S : Small correction - The film, albeit Dev Anand's, is Baazi and not CID.