A New Beginning Or End Of The Road For Omar?

A New Beginning Or End Of The Road For Omar?

7 January 2014
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arun Joshi

Jammu: Notwithstanding the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is the most difficult state to govern, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah even after completing five years in office on Sunday finds more difficulties staring him in the face. At this point of time when his public relations men have listed all achievements, including 1,147 decisions taken by the government in 137 Cabinet meetings in the last five years, will he be able to meet all challenges in the current term. This is the moot question. Had Jammu and Kashmir been like any other state with a five-year Assembly term, it would have been the end of the tenure for the present government. But in this state, the finish line is still a year away. The state Assembly’s life here is six years. A list of the government’s achievements was released on January 5, marking the fifth anniversary of the government. It started with its best, Panchayati Raj institutions, Public Service Guarantee Act, Right to Information Act, Reconstitution of Accountability Commission and Constitution of Vigilance Commission and so on to curb corruption. Any lay person can tell that corruption is far from over. The common man has to undergo the same old rigmarole to get their work done. Bribery is a norm and anti-corruption institutions are toothless. The list of achievements was endless. One lakh jobs provided to youth, one lakh in the offing, 2,500 units established, 1400 MW power projects launched in five years, 28 lakh people provided safe drinking water, 445 road projects, and the rise of literacy rate to 69 per cent and so on. These statistics are on paper, but the ground situation tells a different story. The rural population is deprived of the basic amenities. They still yearn for roads, water, electricity, schools and hospitals. The failures far outweigh the successes that greeted Jammu and Kashmir. In 2011, panchayat elections with more than 80 per cent participation and nearly two million tourist footfalls in 2012 were the high success marks for the government. But what is imprinted on the minds is the 2010 violent street protests, some spontaneous and others sponsored and funded by the anti-government interests. The years 2009 and 2010 marked the lowest points of his government, which was unable to decide how to tell the truth about what happened to the two Shopian women Asiya and Neelofar who were allegedly raped and murdered in May 2009. Also, it had no clue how to stem the 2010 street protests other than with the use of force. The stigma of killing 120 persons, mostly youth in 2010, continues to be the blackest spot of Omar’s government. Omar used the floor of the Assembly, questioning the nature of accession of the state with India, ratcheting up rhetoric, which surprised the Congress, which is a junior partner in the government. Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee chief Saifuddin Soz had advised the Chief Minister to “read history before making comments on such sensitive issues.” Now, of course, the Chief Minister has corrected himself, and called “Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India.” But the damage has been done. During 2010, it appeared on several occasions that the government would fall any time. The calls for Omar’s resignation did not just come from his main political opponent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but also from his ally Congress, which raised the pitch for his removal. Doubts were being expressed and demands were raised “for a Chief Minister who can govern and deliver”. Even some of Omar’s own men had started doubting whether he would be able to complete six years in the CM’s office. The swinging moods of Omar only lent weight to what the doubters were saying. This is the history of five years, which many call the “missed opportunity”, but in self-introspection even Omar must have recognised that he and his government could have done much better had the agents of destabilisation not been working overtime. And had he been more focused on people-oriented issues , his report card would have been matching “let facts speak” advertisement of his achievements.