The new round of trouble in Kashmir has raised questions about the state's Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's ability to deal with the volatile situation created partly by elements from across the border and partly by his own partymen and allies who seem unhappy with his style of functioning.
For young Omar, this is a crucial test in his political career as he, on one hand, is perceived to be the torchbearer of generation next and, on the other, is finding it hard to convince his fellow Kashmiris that he is one of them. Unlike his grandfather Sheikh Abdullah who was described as Sher-e-Kashmir and father Farooq Abdullah who inherited Sheikh Abdullah's legacy, Omar is finding it difficult to gain acceptance with the common Kashmiri. The very traits — a westernised liberal Muslim face in a strife-ridden border state — that propelled him to the chair once occupied by earlier generations of his family are now being used by his detractors to pull him down.
Omar is being accused of neglecting his work and being in New Delhi instead of the state capital for days at a time. His grasp over the administration is being described as worrying by his opponents. To make matters worse for him, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba seems to be gaining ground.
Simultaneously, factionalism within the ranks of an ally like the Congress is also weakening the state government. The common belief is that no government in Kashmir can be strong unless it receives adequate support from the Central government. In this case, a faction of the Congress, which controls the government in New Delhi, is targeting its own state president Saifuddin Soz. For the sake of the state, the Congress president should take strict action against erring legislators like Abdul Gani Vakil whose agenda is more to push the case of their own factions than helping to find a solution to the crisis. She has to ensure that there is enough backing for the person she appointed as the state party chief, Soz, regardless of the views of others in her party.
The all-party meet which was not attended by some factions of the Hurriyat and a major political party like the PDP has not helped matters and the sporadic curfew in parts of the Valley indicates that the solution may not be easy to find. For the Centre there are not too many political options. But these can only be exercised once the Amarnath yatra, which is underway, is over. The country cannot afford to have communal strife in a sensitive state in its quest to find a solution. There are many people who want Omar and his party to be replaced by the PDP with the active support of the Congress.
A major dilemma for the Congress, a key player in the state's politics, is that replacing Omar could be interpreted as a rejection of generation next. There is no dearth of people who have the mindset of the older generation and who want only a very experienced leadership at the helm of affairs both in the states and at the Centre. Therefore, rejecting Omar at this stage could have wide-ranging ramifications for many younger leaders like Sukhbir Singh Badal in Punjab, M.K. Stalin in Tamil Nadu, Ashok Chavan in Maharashtra, Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra, Raj and Uddhav Thackeray also in Maharashtra, Nitin Gadkari in the BJP and Rahul Gandhi in the Congress.
However, Jammu and Kashmir cannot be left to its own devices without proper administration. Omar in one way represents the future of the state and the hopes and aspirations of the younger generation. But, at the same time, the country cannot afford a lax administration.