Congress vice-president and prime ministerial candidate Rahul Gandhi by refusing to speak out his mind on contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), probably not to the liking of chief minister Omar Abdullah, has tried to equidistant himself from both Omar and the government.
Rahul on a visit to the Kashmir on Saturday, on being asked about the AFSPA, had said: " It's a matter of discussion between the Prime Minister and the chief minister … it's not appropriate for me to make any statement on this."
"The statement can be read as either a poison or a health drink for the stakeholders of the AFSPA. It depends on the way and how you play it up to in your political constituencies," said a senior Congress minister, considered close to Gandhi family, wishing not to be named.
Two days before the visit, Rahul had said he was happy with the response of the home minister who had said all the stakeholders in J&K and the northeast would be taken on board before taking a final decision on the revocation of the Act.
The same home minister had made a statement in Parliament that the Centre had not received any proposal from the state government for revocation of this Act, which was contested by the chief minister, though quite late.
Omar had been clamouring for the partial revocation of the AFSPA for quite some time and made it a principal focal point of his politics. He had been blowing hot and cold over this issue, depending on the political mood of the Centre (read Cong), short of antagonising it.
The chief minister had been at time critical of both the army and the Centre and then also sounded responsive to their concerns on the contentious issue.
A statement by the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress, whose word is often taken as the last word in the party and also in the government, could have either strained or cemeneted the relations but would have definitely opened window of the new debate, which Congress ill affords at this juncture.
"He has shown quite a political maturity by not speaking out his mind, clearly signalling that it's governmental decision about which he is not authorised to speak," said the Congress minister.
Rahul was also careful on this account because of the perception that he enjoys personal equation with Omar and any statement favouring his stand could have gone against the interest of his party. The statement against it could have not only shaken the coalition government apple cart but would have put Omar on a sticky political wicket.
Omar would have liked to hear a favourable response from the Congress point man, who by refusing to take sides may not have left Omar happy but had definitely not bruised his political career at the moment.