After debate, parties gear up for J&K elections
1 May 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Excelsior Special Correspondent
New Delhi: As the dust settles down over debate under Article 184 in the Lok Sabha, claimaxing into a bitter victory for the Vajpayee Government, the major political parties are gearing up for the electoral battle in Jammu and Kashmir. By abstaining from voting, the National Conference has sent a clear message that even though it has sailed a long distance with the National Democratic Alliance, it canít ignore the constraints under which it has to function back home in the State. Coupled with the resignation of Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah, the National Conference seems to be upbeat that his first major political decision would pave the way for the party acquiring a young and vibrant image as and when he takes over its reins. The young minister himself is carefully weighing the situation. When contacted as the debate on Article 184 was in progress, Mr Omar Abdullah told the Excelsior: Things would unfold soon and we would be further working to better our position in the State. But, as of now, the repercussions after the debate under Article 184 would have to be dealt with first.'' He made this remark when asked about the election process and the strategy being chalked out for the forthcoming elections in the State. The two other major contenders for power in the State namely, Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, have also begun making preliminary election moves. BJP general secretary Om Prakash Kohli, who is in charge of Jammu and Kashmir, is already on a mission to assess the ground situation in the State. When contacted before his departure from New Delhi, Mr Kohli said his visit was meant to ''take stock of the situation in the State, have discussions and deliberations with the State party members and grassroot workers and chalk out a strategy for the forthcoming elections.'' The party leadership is concerned after the defeat of Prof Nirmal Singh in the Jammu Lok Sabha byelections. It is seized of the reports varying from the candidateís lack of experience to the more serious charges of sabotage by a section of the established leadership. The Congress has already reconstituted its pradesh executive. The PCC chief, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, appears to have overcome his initial reluctance to return to his home State for the first time for an active role after practically having dealt with almost all other states on behalf of the party so far. The Bahujan Samaj Party, another factor in Jammu politics, is also calculating its chances. A senior leader said: ''The road to elections was long ahead and every political initiative to be taken would be considered as and when time comes.''