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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Exchanging ideas: Omar can take cue from 'friend' Rahul

Tarun Upadhyay , Hindustan Times  Jammu, November 07, 2013
First Published: 20:22 IST(7/11/2013) | Last Updated: 20:28 IST(7/11/2013)

Chief minister Omar Abdullah could get some cues from his presumably close friend Rahul Gandhi in making efforts to understand political simmering on the ground and give a chance to understand a man who could be possibly and probably the prime minister.

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In a surprise of sorts, Rahul Gandhi had about one-hour informal free-wheeling discussion with a group of journalists on his visit to Jammu on Wednesday. He raised questions, answered queries, gave insight into his understanding of the state, his intentions and concerns and also tried to elicit response about his style of working.

Scribes may still hold different opinions but it did help them in getting answers to lingering questions and doubts.

Omar Abdullah, who is now at the fag end of his six-year tenure, in last five years had not had even a brief informal, leave alone free-wheeling, chat with journalists of the state. The CM only addresses two structured press conferences a year -- one in Jammu and the other in Srinagar on the opening of 'durbar', respectively. In between, he gives few interviews and talks to the media, though very briefly, when scribes -- mostly TV journalists -- rush to him on the sidelines of a function he had attended for a quote.

Press conferences, which some say are the best way to confuse the things, give a limited view of a leader's understanding of the current issues but not an insight.

It's only Rahul Gandhi but important political leaders, chief ministers and heads of the state do hold such informal meetings frequently if not regularly. One of the renowned journalists Durga Dass in his book 'India from Curzon to Nehru and after' recounts how he could drive away to the residence of then prime minister uninvited to exchange notes.

Informal meeting between scribes and leaders is an established norm and practice, especially in democracy, and it works both ways.

However, in J&K the system didn't evolve and more so it has become virtually non-existent of late. It breeds rumours and half-baked ideas and some time develops prejudice about a person heading a state and eventually gets reflected in writing thus making an image of a leader based on half facts.

Omar Abdullah, who had his early childhood in Essex, presumably had 'broader outlook, is always dressed to nines' was thought of having fresh new ideas. He was thought of being more open to exchanging ideas.

With each passing year, scribes got to know little about him as his supposedly informal exchange of ideas after press conferences also begun to dry up.

The chief minister still has all the agencies at his disposal to keep tabs on people's pulse but no agency works for journalists who can give insight into the thinking of the chief minister.

Rahul Gandhi in his informal meeting did acknowledge having a good equation with Omar Abdullah but he promised to continue this exchange programme in future also. This could possibly definitely give some cue to Omar Abdullah.


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