Omar’s politics of compromise
By Tabish Naseer - SRINAGAR
Published: 25th Nov 2012 11:12:44 AM
In Kashmir, it is not easy to manage the coalition applecart. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who was known as upright and clean, has learnt this lesson hard way. The enemy from within and outside has, on many occasions, forced him to compromise politically.
In politics, no favour can be unilateral. One must return it and so does Omar. In November last year, when he was under sustained pressure from the coalition partner Congress over the amendments in the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), political analysts were surprised when he received support from a senior Congress minister, Taj Mohiuddin—who is the Minister for Water Resources in his cabinet. To allay concerns on the issue of revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Omar had said his government was ready to give legal protection to the Army by amending the RPC and making it on par with the Criminal Procedure Code. While there was opposition from the Congress and other parties, Mohiuddin defended Omar, saying “If time has come to amend the Criminal Procedure Code, it should be amended. What’s the big thing about it?” That not the only occasion when Mohiuddin has come to Omar’s rescue; on several occasions when the Congress has openly pressured National Conference (NC) over the issue of rotational chief ministers, Mohiuddin stood against the move, much to the dismay of senior Congress leaders in the state and at the Centre. Inevitably such favours had to be returned.
After a legislative panel was set to probe allegation of forest land grab against Mohiuddin, the NC actively worked to scuttle it. And, recently, it successfully did so, though the NC on other occasions had dealt with Congress ministers involved in graft or misuse of position.
The plan was simple: NC pulled out its two legislators from the panel which was followed by Congress members withdrawing from the panel, thus leaving it in a minority. Pertinently, both parties gave no explanation for the pull-out. And with just two out of the five nominated members—main Opposition Peoples Democratic Party’s Murtaza Khan (Chairman) and Panther’s Party’s Syed Rafiq Shah—holding on, the panel was dissolved.
Congress leader R S Chib—the Medical Education Minister and considered close to Mohiuddin—wrote to Legislative Council Chairman Amrit Malhotra, asking him to quash the committee after raising doubts over its legality and also the membership of Shah. However, Malhotra defended his decision to constitute the committee. Mohiuddin had himself written four letters to Legislative Assembly Speaker Muhammad Akbar and Malhotra to get the House Committee quashed. But Malhotra put his foot down. The recent incident raises doubts about the moral ground that Omar often claimed.
Move over the coalition partner, Omar has had a much tougher challenge from within his own party. It is his rambunctious uncle Mustafa Kamal who, according to analysts, is the NC’s enemy within. An embarrassed Omar was forced to reach out to his followers on Twitter, in making fun of Kamal who claimed that “India was a bigger enemy of Kashmir people than Pakistan”.
As Kamal’s remarks evoked sharp criticism from different parties, a visibly upset Omar distanced himself, tweeting that: “Funny thing is I don’t need anyone to make things difficult for me when I have relatives to do it for me.” In another tweet, he said, “They say never work with animals and children. I think it’s safe to add relatives to that list as well.”
This is not the first time that Kamal has embarrassed Omar. Over a year back, NC President Farooq Abdullah had asked his younger brother to quit the party posts of Additional General Secretary and Chief Spokesman, hours after he made a derogatory remark about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Kamal had said that Rahul “has no role in running the Jammu and Kashmir government”. His statement came in response to a remark by J&K Congress chief Saifuddin Soz who said Rahul was not happy with the governance in the state.
On other occasions, Kamal blamed the Army for a series of grenade attacks in South Kashmir. The attacks had taken place when Omar was pitching for partial revocation of the AFSPA. Not surprisingly, owing to politics of compromise, Kamal has been taken back into the party recently.
- Sunday Standard