M A I N   N E W S

For Omar, 2013 will be crucial
Arun Joshi/TNS

Jammu, January 4
Omar Abdullah, the youngest Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, is left with just two more years to accomplish what he had promised to do in six years of his tenure at the start of his innings in January 2009.

It has been a roller-coaster ride for the youngest J-K Chief Minister, who completes four years in office on Saturday. It was in his tenure that the NC-Congress government witnessed fierce street protests that left the Valley crippled. But it also saw the panchayat elections being held in the state after 30 years. With two years left for Assembly polls, Omar has limited time at his disposal to meet his targets

So far, he has traversed through one crisis after another. Often, he was seen on a cliff but he managed to jump to a firm ground, partly because of the support that he derived from Delhi, and partly owing to the “lessons he learnt” in the last two years.

The year 2010 was bad. Street protests and clashes left the Valley crippled. As many as 120 persons were reported dead and there was huge damage to public property. The doomsayers were up on their feet, but Delhi didn’t let down Omar, who got a go-ahead to complete his full term of six years.

Now, Omar has slowly, but steadily, stabilised himself and gained confidence. But the connect with the masses is inadequate. Whether he can lead the NC to victory with or without an alliance with the Congress is something which is being keenly watched in the political circles.

His initiatives to kick-start several schemes and to widen the development landscape have been clouded by his own wish list of seeing “political solution to the Kashmir crisis” and removal of laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act . At times, this interrupted his “ sadak, bijli, pani agenda” - something which he had promised while taking over the reins of the state.

In Omar’s case, it is being observed that he wants to move beyond addressing the symptoms, and take on the underlying problem in Kashmir. But he has limited time to do everything. He has picked up speed to accomplish the task, but he will definitely be requiring support from different quarters. The Centre has to respond to the suggestions that he has made in a bid to win the political turf in Kashmir.

The recall of the AFSPA is one of the area where he is struggling to get the Government of India on board.

The countdown has already started for him and his government. The year 2013 is very crucial because the state is set to go to the polls in 2014. A cursory look at Omar’s four-year tenure clearly reveals that first two years - 2009 and 2010 - were wasted as protests were more in news than the government.

AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi had aptly said at that time: “Omar was confronted with a difficult task and he needs more time and support to do things.” The last two years, however, witnessed a turnaround with people getting fed up with agitations which hit the economy hard.

In 2011, the panchayat elections were held in the state. The Congress mounted a campaign for the rotational Chief Minister and there came a time when even the National Conference leadership became shaky and the work came to a standstill. However, the Congress high command told Pradesh Congress Committee president Saif-ud-Din Soz that there is no plan to cut short the term of Omar Abdullah by half.

With tourists flocking to the Valley and people’s faith in peace and economy growing, Omar got an opportunity to showcase the bright picture by inaugurating high-end hotels in Kashmir and displaying their pictures on social media site Twitter, where he has now more than two lakh followers. But how many followers exist on the ground, only 2014 would tell.

While he talks of dialogue on every front, but the talks with the main Opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party, are missing. To this Omar has a simple answer: “The fault doesn’t lie with us. They (Opposition) don’t come to meetings. Whenever development projects are inaugurated, they don’t join us.”

Omar has to pause and reflect as to what he needs to do to win the electoral battle in next two years. In politics, even a week is a long time, and two years are enough to march ahead. 





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