Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Son-shine in Jammu & Kashmir albeit second time

An Omar Abdullah may soon find that an increasingly demanding voter in a complex state like J&K will expect more from him than just a telegenic appearance and powerful oratory, writes Rajdeep Sardesai in Hindustan Times.

Now, it may be up to Omar, who exudes promise, to reverse the legacy of 1987 and learn the lessons of the past, writes The Times of India on January 11, 2009.

Everyone is waxing eloquent on the young leadership in Jammu and Kashmir and of course aspirations are soaring high in the most troubled state of India. As the above headlines suggest his ascendency is being seen with interest and hope.

Soon after taking over the 'throne', Omar Abdullah, 38, chief-minister of Jammu and Kasmir started visiting government offices unannounced and speaking like a CEO. These are expected things from a new blood. We wish him all the best for anything he does in mainstreaming the affairs.

The elections in J&K were unprecedented one. People defied the boycott and came out in record numbers (61% turnouts recorded) whilst the verdict has surprises- 'soft-separatism advocate' PDP consolidated and Jammu gave a strong message that discrimination will no longer be tolerated. People decided clearly which ideological hue they would prefer. The BJP has a chance here to im-prove. In fact it was a long haul for a party; Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (then Jansangh) started an agitation to abolish Article 370 in 1952 when Omar's grandfather Sheikh Abdullah was at the helm in Srinagar. He was arrested and died in detention.

The performance of Congress party dwindled; National Conference was similar what it were six years ago, People’s Democratic Party performed better and BJP leapt from one seat in 2002 to 11 this time. Clearly, it's sheer maths and not the popular verdict in favour of any party or combination. It means that people are divided, confused and desperately need a direction. The sewn-up combine should understand the message in the right earnest and work for a future direction to the rudderless spirits in the state. It is not easy when Omar is carrying the 'weighty baggage' and plenty of non-state actors are active.

He is riding on the horse he is not accustomed to and even giving a wrong 'soundbite' could jeopardize his chance. His support to Congress on N-deal issue and his famous oratory in Parliament in which he opposed rather emphatically the land for the Shree Amarnath jee Shrine won the day for NC. He was once the part of Vajpayee administration as a young-educated-moderate-Muslim face and later resigned and bid adieu to NDA to firm up his Kashmir politics. He said he already apologized for being the part of NDA when Gujarat happened.

In J&K, people in the valley have been living in the constant fear of guns and many bogus political ideologies. The cross-border ideas germinated in the senile minds and talk of independence have been doing the rounds. Remember the 'Muzaffarabad chalo' fiasco last year! A weak central policy over the years failed to mainstream affairs in the state which has become deepest scar on hearts and minds of India. Earlier dispensations at New Delhi experimented with dynasties in Kashmir which proved problematic and growth was installed- forget about the inclusive growth.

In September 2008 while talking to Devil's Advocate Karan Thapar he went all hog to support Musharraf's ideas, "Musharaff was a single window system so to speak... That window has gone…Well we are living to rue it now. Had we worked out a solution with Pakistan in 2006/2007, we wouldn't (have) seen Kashmir inflamed in 2008." Musharraf advocated a 'self-governance' Kashmir formula which was rejected by the UPA government.

Soon after the counting, the NC website has put up his grandfather and party founder Sheikh Abdullah’s quote on top of the page. “Only that accession will endure which is acceptable to the hearts of people...not with subsidised rice, army and offering largesse,” reported the Indian Express. 'Is this Omar Abdullah’s attempt to return to Sheikh Abdullah’s NC?' asked the paper.

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