For Omar, Short Story Of Costly Compromises In Kashmir

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Sheikh Qayoom

Srinagar: An honest admission of defeat or a reflection of the growing tensions between the state’s ruling National Conference and the Congress? Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has left people asking the question after he said recently that it was impossible to tackle corruption in coalition rule.

Abdullah made the observation in New Delhi recently, adding that if people really wanted to root out corruption, they should give a clear mandate to a single political party in the elections.

The 42-year-old chief minister came to power after the Congress and the regional National Conference (NC) worked out an alliance following the 2008 assembly elections. The NC has 28 seats while the Congress has 17 in the 87-member state legislative assembly.

It is generally believed in Kashmir that the relationship between the Abdullahs and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, going back three generations, did not play as much a role in getting the Congress and NC together as the acrimony caused by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) withdrawal of support to the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Congress-PDP government in 2008.

PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed ruled the state as chief minister for three years after the PDP-Congress alliance was formed in the wake of the 2002 assembly elections. But the party pulled out of the coalition when the Amarnath land row agitation started.

The hallmark of Omar Abdullah’s coming to power had been his . Clean image and the absence of any burdensome package from the past. He had made eradication of corruption from public life his main agenda.

But, just over three years in power, the young chief minister seems to have realised that he is up against the wall in his campaign against corruption.

Initially, Abdullah’s resolve against corruption had caused ripples in the bureaucracy and police. However, today, one has to pay one’s way through in almost every sphere of public life — from obtaining a ration card to getting a driving licence or a permanent residence certificate.

Although common people seem to have reconciled to their fate, those who once thought Abdullah would make a difference are saddened.

“If he can do nothing, I am sure nobody else can rid us from the scourge of corruption,” said a voter in his Ganderbal constituency in north Kashmir.

Abdullah’s realisation that holding the present Congress-NC alliance together needs compromises and confabulations was proved right when the state government had to cancel the already notified block development council (BDC) elections.

The Congress had started a proactive campaign for extension of the 73rd Constitution amendment to Jammu and Kashmir which has a constitution of its own. The Congress leadership argued that without empowering the elected village representatives through the provisions of the amendment, holding of BDC elections would be meaningless.

The chief minister had earlier said the village representatives were already empowered as per the provisions of the state Panchayati Raj Act and no further empowerment was needed.

Pressure from the Congress allies finally forced the state government to bring forth an ordinance cancelling the already notified BDC elections.

While denying that there was any decision to extend the 73rd amendment to the state, state Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Muhammad Sagar has said reservations for women, the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and other changes would now be made in the Panchayati Raj Act before the new schedule for the BDC elections is announced.

“It was precisely these provisions of the 73rd amendment which we had been demanding to be brought in,” said a Congress leader on condition of anonymity.

Three years of heading the government seems to have taught Omar Abdullah that coalition politics is all about compromises, most of them unpleasant and image denting. (IANS)

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