By Arun Joshi
National Conference vice president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is preparing to sign off from politics. There is a little surprise in it as he is caught in his own cobweb of contradictions and many within his party National Conference believe that he has done more damage to the party’s standing in Kashmir than any good by saying that he is doubtful about his continuation in politics . These words not only speak of his mindset but also the dilution of his commitment to the party’s agenda of restoration of the special status of J&K .
Omar was always seen as a part-time politician , and his recent utterances in media interactions have confirmed it further. In politics , expression of self-doubt is nothing short of a suicide note. With this, he has also proven that he was the last Abdullah to rule J&K.
In one of his recent interviews, he stunned his party loyalists when he made a confession .” I am jaded, demotivated … I don’t know where I stand ?” Coming as it did from Omar Abdullah, who was once seen as hope for the future in the trouble-torn Kashmir, and a voice that could resonate with the youth and their aspirations , has sent a note of disappointment . Indeed, it was a candid confession, yet in politics things that demoralise party cadre and the polity at large are better left unsaid.
Omar, however, is a different creed in Kashmir politics. Although he represents dynastic politics that can easily be traced to his grandfather Sheikh Abdullah , a rebel , a ruler and then a man who is known for compromises over the Kashmir’s identity and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism . Sheikh Abdullah his son Farooq Abdullah as his successor in the party before inducting him into the ministry, days before he breathed his last on September 8, 1982. That changed the course of the Kashmir politics forever.
Farooq was no match to his father’s popularity and command over politics . He faltered and donned several roles – Chief Minister who stood up to powerful Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and after her death negotiated his political future with Indira’s son Rajiv Gandhi to regain the power that was unlawfully snatched from him by Congress under the directions of Indira Gandhi in July 1984.
The petty political art of defections was employed to install a government headed by his brother-in-law Ghulam Mohammad Shah. His return to power and then the rigged elections of 1987 led to the eruption of militancy.
Omar was out of touch with Kashmir and psyche that developed during the period of militancy, but his political career took off with his election to the Parliament in 1998 . He won the parliamentary elections in 1999 as well and then went onto become a junior minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee government.
In June 2002, he was nominated as the new president of National Conference , and the 2002 Assembly polls were fought by National Conference under his leadership , which he lost.
On losing election , he said that he would continue as member parliament as he had “ to feed his family”, apparently referring to the salary that he drew as an MP. This was a horrendous statement as if the whole politics was all about drawing salary as a law maker.
He thought he has vindicated his position politically when he became youngest Chief Minister at the age of 38 in January 2009 . But the street protests ad killings under his watch in the summer of 2010 dented his image as an administrator.
His aloof style of governance and taking off to Delhi at the times whenever J&K was in trouble , showed that he was neither serious in politics nor governance . The 2020 street unrest laid the ground for new brand of politics which manifested in the emergence of Burhan Wani cult – a young militant , visible on social media without any masks.
The 2010 was repeated with greater intensity in the summer of 2016 after the killing of Burhan in an encounter . In fact, Kashmir never recovered from that.
Omar has attributed his “ demotivation and disappointment” to the August 5 , 2019, decisions of abrogation of Article 370 and his seven month-long detention, but the fact remains that he had showed his signs of inconsistency immediately after his release when he said that he won’t contest polls as long as J&K stays as Union Territory.
This infuriated his party leaders who thought that he would stress for restoration of special status rather than just angling for the statehood .
Now when he said that he doesn’t know where he stands , the doubts have appeared about his capability and credibility as a leader. “ When leader talks in such a meek language , he surrenders the right to lead,” commented one of the senior NC leaders. The party believes that he has dumped himself, politically.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express and The Tribune.
He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
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This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with the www.prameyanews.com