Utraula (UP)/Mumbai: As far as snoops go, Maharahstra Minister Nawab Malik presents an unlikely picture as he takes on the shaken might of the Narcotics Control Bureau Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede.
Compared with cocky original 007, the bespectacled, bearded Malik presents a rather homely, fatherly figure, mostly in comfy kurtas who has taken upon himself to right the alleged wrongs of the Super Sleuth Wankhede.
As the stunned NCB and the national polity gaped, the Malik-Wankhede war – which started after the agency’s swoop on a luxury cruise ship in which one of those caught was Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan’s son, Aryan Khan – became the top TRP catcher.
The besieged and worried Wankhede is fighting it out in different fora and pulling all possible strings to keep the muck raked by Malik from sticking to him, with the latter vowing in public that it will all end with the officer (Wankhede) getting the sack and going to jail.
Last month (October 2021), in an unprecedented step, Malik launched an expose campaign against Wankhede and his activities, raising a big question mark on the officer’s credentials and the NCB’s credibility.
His latest serial exposure has not only rattled Wankhede, but raised uncomfortable questions on how the NCB, other central agencies like ED, ITD, CBI, NIA, etc, are being deployed to harass Opposition-parties ruled states by the BJP at the Centre.
“I have first-hand knowledge of how injustice is being meted out by these agencies to innocents. I decided somehow, someone has to do the cleaning up… I have no personal motives… Only Truth I am putting out before people,” Malik smiled with confidence.
On his prime target, Malik contends that the charge of extortion already established, soon the fake caste certificate matter will also be officially proved, and the “crusade for truth will continue till Wankhede is dismissed and dumped in jail”.
His regular media briefings are reminiscent of the Vikram-Betaal tales when he hurls agonising questions at the dazed Wankhede, who scurries from pillar-to-post for dear help.
Born in 1959 in the small Dhuswa village of Utraula Tehsil, Balrampur district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, close to India-Nepal border, despite his name suggesting ‘nobility’, Malik was an ordinary village lad till the family migrated to Mumbai for better prospects in 1970.
Dhuswa folks say that his father Mohammed Islam Malik initially started a small business in ‘chindi’ (rags) in Dongri, south Mumbai, and later shifted to north-east suburban Kurla.
In Kurla, Malik helped his father launch a scrap buying-selling business – the reason why some people now snobbishly try to run him down as a ‘kabadiwala’.
“So… What’s wrong in being a ‘kabadiwala’? We are doing a service to the nation, converting waste into wealth, which is also good for the environment,” Malik told IANS.
After dabbling in local social activities, he forayed into politics first with the ‘Sanjay Vichar Manch’ party launched by Maneka Gandhi – after the death of her husband Sanjay Gandhi – along with his close aides like Akbar ‘Dumpy’ Ahmed, Sanjay Singh, J.N. Mishra, Kalpnath Sonkar, etc.
Malik first contested Lok Sabha elections in 1984 against the Congress stalwart, the late Gurudas Kamat but barely got around 2,500 votes.
Later, he flirted with the Congress briefly before switching over to the Samajwadi Party (SP), won a bypoll to become an MLA and was promptely rewarded with a Minister of State position in the then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance government in 1999.
Following political wrangles with the SP State President Abu Asim Azmi, Malik left and joined the NCP led by Sharad Pawar, and became a MoS and later a Cabinet Minister.
In 2005, he was targeted for alleged corruption by a social crusader Kisan Baburao alias Anna Hazare and had to quit the cabinet along with 4 other ministers.
Though Malik vehemently rubbished all charges against him, he was plucky enough to launch a counter-campaign against Hazare and also continued to work for the NCP, slowly earning the confidence of the party top brass, including the Pawar clan.
In November 2019, when the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress Maha Vikas Aghadi took office, Malik catapulted to the cabinet but encountered a setback when his son-in-law Sameer Khan was nabbed by the NCB and finally released on bail after over 8 months.
His former colleagues including ex-ministers (on condition of anonymity) describe Nawab Malik as “a meticulous worker, who handles any issue studiously, a tad arrogant occasionally, a fierce ‘family-man’, a gutsy leader who dares to barge in where angels fear to tread, and has the gall to call a spade a spade”, etc.