Congress on Thursday dismissed suggestions that it is "Omar versus Rahul" on the issue of the security of elected Sarpanches in Jammu and Kashmir but stressed they should be provided full security by the state government.
"Not at all. There is nothing like Omar Abdullah versus Rahul Gandhi in this matter," party spokesperson Rashid Alvi told reporters when asked whether the issue of security of elected Sarpanches and Panchayat members in Jammu and Kashmir was leading to some sort of a tiff between Gandhi and Omar.
A delegation of nine Sarpanches from the state met Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi and some of them complained to him that the state government was treating the elected Panchayat members as second class citizens.
After the meeting, Gandhi agreed to address Mahapanchayats of elected Panchayat representatives - one each in Jammu and Kashmir - and asked them not resign. He also assured them that he will take up the matter of their security with the state government, some members of the delegation told reporters after meeting the AICC general secretary.
At the AICC briefing, Alvi said, "We want the government of Jammu and Kashmir to provide full security to elected Panchayat members. The party wants Sarpanches in the whole country be empowered and adequate security provided to them."
Showing his displeasure over some states not delegating power to panchayats, Gandhi, in Ranchi, pledged that he will fight for empowerment of the rural bodies. The issue was also raised in the Congress Working Committee meeting on Tuesday after which Gandhi had said that it was a "serious matter" and required consideration.
Omar had on Wednesday said that devolution of power to the panchayats had not gone down well with a section of politicians and bureaucrats. "Many MLAs and even two ministers from our coalition partner have come to me asking not to transfer block level powers to panchayats," in an obvious reference to Congress.