SRINAGAR: With four seats safely in its kitty, the National Conference is gearing up to play an important role in national politics. Some of the newly-elected members of Parliament are in favour of joining the BJP-led Government in New Delhi "for more powers to redress local problems".
The working committee of the party will be meeting in a couple of days to decide the future course of action and it is learnt that the question of whether or not to join the Central Government would be very much on the agenda of the working committee. There is, however, no confusion about the NC stand towards a Vajpayee-led Government in New Delhi as NC supremo Farooq Abdullah has already declared that his party would support the same. But will it join the Government given a choice? On this NC top boss has not made any public stand so far. The matter, possibly, is being left for the working committee of the party to decide.
A section of leaders in the party feel that the NC, which had supported the Prime Minister during confidence motion (excepting Saifuddin Soz's dissent vote which brought down the Vajpayee Government), should participate in the Government so that NC has a voice in the Central Cabinet itself. "There is no point in trumpeting ourselves as an ally of BJP Government and thereby inviting reservation of a section of voters and then distance ourselves when it comes to sharing the power," argues a senior NC leader.
Newly elected MP from Baramulla-Kupwara constituency, A. R. Shaheen, is very clear in his stand that his party should keep all options open and should not shy away from joining the Vajpayee Government. "It is for the working committee to decide (on this issue) but there is no harm in being part of the Government in New Delhi so as to bring in more benefits for the State," he avers. On being asked whether the working committee is to deliberate on this issue, he says "there is a strong possibility that this question would be part of agenda."
Shaheen, who defeated former Union minister Saifuddin Soz with a big margin (in fact Soz ranked third, after Muzzaffar Beig of People's Democratic Party), believes that NC should have more powers to attend to pressing problems in Jammu and Kashmir, foremost being the fractured economy and elusive peace in the State.
He says it is a misconception that by closely aligning with the BJP, NC would lose popular support in the State. "If it was so, Saifuddin Soz should have been the hero in the Valley by bringing down the Vajpayee Government. But look, what happened? He could merely manage to save his deposit in Baramulla," he comments.
Interestingly, it was the question of participation in the Government which had ultimately led Soz to cast his vote defying party diktat. Sources in the party told The Indian Express that Soz had been pressing Dr. Abdullah for talking to Vajpayee to "accommodate" him in the Cabinet but the latter did not oblige. Some people in the party believe Dr. Abdullah was actually interested in his son becoming a Union Minister and that had angered Soz to no limit. With Soz out and badly battered, Omar Abdullah will hardly have any opposition as all others are first-timers in the Lok Sabha. Omar beats them with his 18-month experience as parliamentarian.
Party leaders are, however, not too sure whether Vajpayee would actually invite the NC to be part of his coalition Government. Already faced with the problem of accommodating the whole bandwagon of NDA partners, Vajpayee's hand would be full. Besides there hardly would be any need to keep NC in good humor as the latter had decided not to be part of NDA. With BJP and allies romping home with comfortable majority, NC will have to wait for more opportune time to stake its claim for a seat in the Central Cabinet.
"All depends on Dr. Abdullah. If he decides to find a berth for his worthy son in the Central Government, he will use his good relations with Vajpayee and safely manage the same," comments another leader.
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