Omarís Trial By Fire Continues

2 August 2009
The Hindustan Times
Pankaj Vohra

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah may have survived the crisis partly created by his conditional resignation to the Governor. But if he has to succeed in the long-run, he has to carry the whole state with him. This includes the Peopleís Democratic Party (PDP), the principal opposition party in the Assembly, that has precipitated the crisis both by its unbecoming conduct in the House and by levelling unsubstantiated charges against the Chief Minister. Omar Abdullah is perhaps the best thing thatís happened to the state in a long time. He is a liberal Muslim and has inherited a distinguished political legacy. Though there were great expectations from him, his seven-month tenure has been uninspiring. He has been repeatedly tested by his opponents in the Assembly as well as by separatist elements. His resignation in the face of allegations made by Muzaffar Hussain Beigh, a senior PDP leader, may have given him the high moral ground. But at the same time he also came out as a young leader who did not know how to withstand pressure. He unilaterally submitted his resignation despite reservations on the part of many members of his party. This may have been driven by idealism but he does not seem to have realised that his controversial action could have led to a leadership change within his own party. Thankfully, this did not happen as the Centre was quick to react and cleared the air about his alleged involvement in the infamous J&K sex scandal currently under scrutiny. Omar has got a reprieve with the Governor asking him to resume work. His critics claim that Omarís image has taken a beating and henceforth, he is going to be viewed as an impulsive leader. This would be a pity since Omarís taking office has been a singular highlight in the strife-torn state. He represents the aspirations of a new generation of Kashmiris who are not terribly enamoured by the separatist message and are not willing to lay down their lives for an elusive notion of jihad. But Omar should learn some lessons from this crisis. The Abdullahs are nationalists and have made no bones about this even in issues which have involved our contentious neighbour. Omar was considered to be far more self-contained that his highly emotional father, Farooq Abdullah. But the PDP too must realise that its conduct has been shameful. Whatever the provocation, Mehbooba Mufti, another young face with a lot of promise, should never have rushed into the well of the House and thrown the mike at the Speaker. If she and her colleagues ever hope to come back to power, they must stop acting in such an irresponsible manner. She will get plenty of legitimate chances to take on the government. Omarís seven months in office were certainly not his best and the Opposition was getting a handle to demonstrate that he was not a good administrator after all. But the crisis has allowed him to bounce back and fight. The supreme irony is that Muzaffar Beigh and Mehbooba Mufti have had their share of differences. But in this crisis both seem to have come closer to one another. Another disappointment from Kashmir is that the state had a chance to grant a Rajya Sabha ticket to a Kashmiri Pandit (KP) but has allowed that to fritter away. The Kashmiri Pandits are already feeling alienated. There is not even one KP (for the first time) in the Assembly or the Upper House. This is true even of Parliament. Had the National Conference taken the lead by nominating a KP for the Rajya Sabha, it would have emerged as a truly secular party. Its politics would have been seen to be more inclusive than exclusive. Between us.