Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah seems to be weakening his own case for continuation as the head of the government in the strife-ridden border state. By questioning J&K’s merger with India and speaking the language of some of the separatists, the CM has demonstrated his ignorance, as also his inexperience in both governance and realpolitik. He also seems unaware that several issues are being brought up that were addressed in an agreement signed between Indira Gandhi and his grandfather Sheikh Abdullah, whose legacy he claims to have inherited.
It is true that Omar is on a sticky wicket and may have said what he did on the floor of the assembly to deflect criticism against himself for his all-round failure and inability to rule the state despite a mandate obtained in the ‘fairest’ elections conducted by the Election Commission of India. He seems to have started believing that Rahul Gandhi’s support to him some weeks ago was enough and the Centre was duty-bound to back him even if he is unable to deliver. Rahul, in his apparent endorsement of young Omar, had recommended that he should be given more time. But, obviously, he too must never have imagined that his friend had erred in a major way while talking about the accession of the state to the Union of India.
Omar perhaps is not aware that the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, adopted in 1956, also makes it abundantly clear that the state is an integral part of India. His father, Farooq Abdullah, had also recently stated the same in Delhi. Between the father and son — both members of the same party — there is certainly an element of double-speak. While Farooq is talking in one language in Delhi, Omar, in order to buy peace with the separatists, has started speaking their line.
The CM must understand that he cannot be selective in his dealings with the Centre. If there are some reservations that he has about some people in the Union government, they can easily be addressed. If he feels that Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai exceeded his brief on the issue of lifting of the curfew, he should have taken it up with the prime minister and the home minister. He should know by now that Pillai does speak out of turn quite often and thus there is no need to make an issue out of it.
If Omar’s statement was in response to extreme positions taken by his main rival, the PDP, he must understand that the PDP chief Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter are in the opposition. They will obviously state certain things, which could appear to be orchestrated for the gallery. But he, as a responsible person (and chief minister), should show more restraint and maturity in dealing with matters.
He must know that his state is heavily dependent on the Centre for several of its requirements. Without Indian support many problems could get multiplied. There is certainly no attempt by anybody to undermine the special status J&K enjoys but there has to be an all-round realisation that India is a well-wisher and not an enemy of the people of J&K. Anybody can compare the living conditions in Pakistan-occupied territory and make up his or her mind as to which is better. The state is an integral part of India and some people living in 100 square miles of land in the Valley cannot determine its political agenda.
Omar Abdullah has been accused of running the state as ‘an outsider’. There was a lot of hope vested in him when he took over, but it seems to have vanished with his inadequate performance. He is considered as a part of the problem. The Centre seems to be in the process of exercising an option of changing the governor of the state, but the people’s disillusionment with the chief minister seems to be greater. While the hopes of many Generation-Next leaders are dependent on the success of the young CM, it is time the parties in the state look for a mature and better-informed alternative. Between us.