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Explained: Blunt statements and combative politics, signature style of Nawab Malik

Malik, the Maharashtra cabinet minister who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday in connection with a case of money laundering against underworld don and terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, is often seen as being brusque with even his party colleagues and close supporters.

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh | Mumbai |
Updated: February 24, 2022 6:05:58 am
Malik joined the NCP in 2001 after being expelled from the Samajwadi Party (File)

Nawab Malik, who has been the national spokesperson of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for more than a decade, has a reputation for being less flexible than most people who are appointed to such a role.

Malik, the Maharashtra cabinet minister who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday in connection with a case of money laundering against underworld don and terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, is often seen as being brusque with even his party colleagues and close supporters.

The family of the five-time MLA is originally from Dhuswa village in Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda district, and has had businesses in Mumbai, including in scrap, from before the time he was born in 1959.

Malik was drawn to politics while in college and, attracted by the charisma of Sanjay Gandhi, he went on to join the Youth Congress and, in 1980, the Sanjay Vichar Manch floated by Maneka Gandhi. In 1984, when he was 26, Malik contested the Lok Sabha election as the candidate of the Manch for the Bombay North East seat. Fighting against stalwarts Gurudas Kamat (Congress) and Pramod Mahajan (BJP), Malik got only 2,950 votes.

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Malik made a bid for a Congress ticket in the Bombay Municipal Corporation elections in 1991. Rejection, and the communal riots of 1992-93 following the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Bombay blasts, are said to have nudged him towards the Samajwadi Party. He contested the Vidhan Sabha election for the Nehru Nagar seat as the SP candidate in 1995, and finished behind the Shiv Sena winner Suryanat Mahadik.

After that result was set aside by the Supreme Court, Malik won the bypoll that took place in 1996. In the 1999 Assembly elections, he won the seat again — one of only two SP winners across Maharashtra. The SP partnered with the Congress-NCP, which formed the coalition government after that election, and the SP’s Maharashtra chief Abu Azmi picked Malik for the ministerial berth his party was offered.

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The SP was looking to expand its base among North Indian migrants in Mumbai — the Shiv Sena’s punching bag — and Malik’s UP background and his roots in the scrap trade, dominated by North Indians, helped. Malik was made Minister of State for Housing and Auqaf. But the two men soon drifted apart. According to SP leaders, Malik chafed at the domineering control of Azmi, who had never won an election. Malik himself had told The Indian Express later that he disagreed with the SP’s transition to “a Muslim-centric party” in Maharashtra. “I had ideological differences, I was against the communalisation of politics. Some leaders were trying to turn the SP into Muslim League,” he said.

On October 7, 2001, four days after Azmi expelled Malik from the SP, he joined the NCP.

In 2003, social activist Anna Hazare named Malik among three “corrupt” ministers in the Congress-NCP government, accusing him of stopping the reconstruction of a chawl to benefit a private builder. Malik attributed the decision to the previous BJP-Sena government, but had to resign as Labour Minister in 2005 after a commission passed strictures against him. Three years later, he was brought back in the same portfolio.

In 2009, the returning Congress-NCP government did not accommodate him in the Cabinet but the NCP named him as spokesperson — and he has continued in the post almost without pause since.

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In his new role, Malik routinely waded into sensitive issues that most others chose to stay clear of. In 2011, then Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar intervened on the floor of the Assembly to stop Malik as he demanded a CBI inquiry into the death of a girl whose body had been found in a senior BJP leader’s car. In the 2014 elections, when the Congress-NCP government was ousted, Malik lost by a narrow margin of 1,007 votes. In 2016, he was involved in an infamous brawl with his NCP colleague and former MP Sanjay Patil, with reports of shots being fired. Later, the two patched up.

Malik declared assets of Rs 5.74 crore in the 2019 Assembly elections. After the NCP, Sena, and Congress cobbled together a government, Malik was again inducted into the Cabinet. The portfolio though was the lower-profile Minority Affairs and Skill Development.

The arrest of Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan pitched Malik into the national media limelight last year, as he launched an attack on Sameer Wankhede, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) officer who was then in charge of the case.

Months earlier, the NCB led by Wankhede had arrested Malik’s son-in-law Sameer Shabbir Khan, a businessman who is married to Malik’s elder daughter Nilofer. The NCB claimed to have proof of money being exchanged between Sameer Khan and a British national, Karan Sajnani, who had been held allegedly with drugs.

Malik, who believed the arrest to be part of a political conspiracy, kept quiet for months. The arrest of Aryan Khan gave him a chance to hit back. He revealed information that raised serious questions about due process in the NCB’s Cordelia cruise ship raid, and accused Sameer Wankhede of foisting false drug cases and of acting as a BJP pawn to harass political opponents. Malik’s allegations against Wankhede provoked a defamation suit, but also led to a Vigilance probe against the officer, who was sent back to his parent organisation, Directorate of Reven-ue Intelligence, in January this year.


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