Mehbooba’s performance in Ist Assembly session

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The 35 day Assembly session, one of the longest in Kashmir in years, was largely a drab, low-key session – albeit speeches by the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and leader of the opposition Omar Abdullah briefly added some zest to the proceedings. But there were no fireworks or for that matter the disruptions that generally marked the Assembly sessions when PDP was in opposition, some of them one of the stormiest in history. Who can forget the unruliness that set apart some of the sessions when National Conference leader Akber Lone was the Speaker. Or the one where  PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Beigh had accused the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of being an accused in the case prepared by the CBI during its investigations into the infamous sex scandal case. In another session, Mehbooba had thrown microphone at the speaker Akber Lone. In comparison, the just concluded session passed more or less with least disruptions. This looks surprising considering the fact that the issues at stake were no less contentious. The Assembly discussed establishment of Sainik and Kashmir Pandit colonies, the colonies for the shelterless,  New Industrial Policy, cat-pigeon analogy for Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits,  Mehbooba remarks on Islam, surveillance of Imams and towards the end the Land Transfer Bill which sought curbs on taking possession of or construction activity on the property transferred, unless it was registered in accordance with the law of the land.

But Mehbooba led coalition government negotiated all these deeply problematic issues, all of which with a potential to touch off the mass unrest in the state. Though the government didn’t resolve all the issues, it skilfully did steer clear of all of them. On Sainik colony, the CM denied that any land had been allotted for it – even rejecting an NGO’s alleged expose that the Army was constructing structures for its men on the land near the airport. On Pandit colonies, Mehbooba stood her ground saying they needed “transit accommodations” before they could go back to their native places, as advocated by Azadi groups.  She, however, added that even in these transit camps, officially referred as composite colonies, Pandit community will share the space with the other communities. New Industrial Policy, once its troubling provisions came to light was reviewed and four of its clauses withdrawn. Similarly, the Land Transfer Bill was referred to a yet to be constituted select committee. The committee to be nominated by the speaker has been asked to submit the report during the next Assembly session. The bill on autonomy that  National Conference had sought to table didn’t fructify even though it was an ill-advised idea considering that the House has already passed a resolution on the autonomy with a landslide majority in 1999. So bringing a bill afresh was tantamount to overriding its earlier legislation. 

One thing, however, is starkly clear. The coalition government under Mehbooba has held one of the longest Assembly sessions, dabbled with some of the politically trickiest issues and then got away with it. Does it show political skillfullness of Mehbooba or the tameness of NC under Omar as the opposition which singularly failed to corner the government on a single issue? The answer could be a blend of both. 

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