When Omar Speaks

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In his interaction with a delegation of the Canadian High Commission, Omar Abdullah has called on New Delhi to “engage people who don’t see a solution (to J&K issue) within the Constitution of India.” In a throwback to his utterances when he was the Chief Minister, Omar reiterated that J&K had only acceded to India and not merged. “J&K acceded on an instrument of an understanding that was based on defence, foreign affairs, communication and currency and as such everything else would be the domain of the state. But over the time, this has been whittled down”. He said that the only solution possible to the lingering dispute over the state between India and Pakistan is to follow the National Conference roadmap. And which is “to restore to the fullest extent possible the autonomous position that existed between Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the country”.  Omar’s opinion is certain to have resonated with a large section of the population in the state. The truth is that it is the unsettled nature of the political dispute over Kashmir that hangs heavy over everything else in the state. It is like Kashmir is in a time warp: the discourse has hardly changed over the past 68 years. While India and Pakistan have moved on, Kashmir is stuck in 1947. And Omar has once again brought home this reality. But the problem with the articulation of the Kashmir’s political reality by mainstream politicians is that this is just a political position they espouse.  Their politics is hardly geared to actively pursue a solution. Once elected, the mainstream parties forget this all-important political commitment, a practice that has been further reinforced by the coalition politics.

Having said that, Omar’s description of the situation in J&K needs an honest reflection in New Delhi. Unlike any of his predecessors Omer does a refreshing  job of describing Kashmir in all its complexity without seeming to colour it with his party’s agenda. Even in his daily conduct, Omer seems driven in good faith to do the good. But somehow all these qualities don’t add up and reflect in the politics that his party does. Or for that matter shows in his governance. In his six-year term as the Chief Minister, NC government was impersonal in nature,  sterile in operation and seemed to go about its business in a vacuum. It almost seemed as if the sleekness of Omar’s communication gadgets on which he so much dotes had somehow rubbed off on his government, making it too apathetically sophisticated for the common man to relate.

But PDP-BJP coalition that followed him has not so far positively differentiated its performance either. On political front too, nothing is moving. In fact, while the PDP congratulates itself for stalling the Sangh Parivar bid to revoke Article 370, the BJP has moved the political discourse on Kashmir to the integration of the state into India. It has reneged on all its commitments such as the revocation of AFSPA or initiating dialogue with separatist groups.

Though this provides Omar an opportunity to hurtle back into the reckoning, the NC leader’s abysmal record as an administrator still comes in his way. Omar needs more than his disarming communication skills to convince people about his ability to govern.

 

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