A helping hand in J&K

Omars failure will stick on Rahul
Last Updated : 05 July 2010, 17:02 IST
Last Updated : 05 July 2010, 17:02 IST

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The unfolding tragedy in Kashmir could well be an opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to make an intervention that may bring him, nationally, into positive light. His friends probably do not know that keeping him focused on UP circumscribes his political turf.

The reason why Rahul Gandhi inserting himself into the proceedings may be useful for Kashmir, and him politically, is because an absence of interest on his part will show him in poor light for a reason most people do not realise. Omar Abdullah being fielded in the J&K arena is being attributed to him and Omar Abdullah is playing a poor knock.

Remember his gyrations on Shopian in 2009 and now his ineffectiveness in Sopor. Is it politically discreet to flourish the Queen’s Baton on the Dal when the mood in the Valley is a lethal mixture of mourning and anger? Also, hiding behind the CRPF’s misdemeanor is not very clever. The CRPF may have acted, or reacted, wrongly, but it was so palpable to anyone who visited the valley that anger, indeed rage, was simmering below the surface. The peace  was deceptive and I wrote so in this space months ago.

The election results of 2009 gave the Congress a signal. The unexpectedly good performance in UP, where Rahul Gandhi had pitched tents, caused the party to coax a principle from the new situation. Rahul was emerging as the new, youthful, mass leader for the nation. All the young Congress MPs were accommodated in the Cabinet.
A roar went up that Rahul too should be given a handsome slot in the Cabinet. The prime minister and a handful of others may have sincerely considered the Cabinet route as the most suitable one for Rahul’s eventual ascension.

There was another group which thought he was, being young, most suitable to rejuvenate the party.

It is a in the nature of power politics, in any society, that centres of power generate around them, in concentric circles, lobbies and coteries. That New Delhi’s power structure, already bifurcated, was about to have a third power centre in Rahul Gandhi (and this one would be blessed with longevity), would not be in the interest of existing coteries. Not the principals, mind you, only the coteries.

That was one fear which caused some to insist for Rahul Gandhi’s induction in the Union Cabinet. He would be on a leash in the Cabinet system. Since he eluded the Cabinet ‘lasso’ and set himself up as the third power point to revive the Congress, particularly in UP, it is elementary that there should be some around the other two power points who would not lose sleep if Rahul or anyone from his circle, fails.

Young blood
Let me link this convoluted argument to Omar Abdullah. After the 2009 election results, it was more or less clear that, in the National Conference — Congress alliance, Farooq Abdullah would be Jammu and Kashmir chief minister. He had himself announced it. By this time the lesson of the UP result had been interpreted by the Youth Brigade as a vote of confidence in the younger generation.

Just as Rajesh Pilot was Farooq’s political ‘buddy’, so is his son Sachin, Omar’s political support. In this general youth wave, Farooq, under all manner of pressure, made way for the son to ascend the gaddi.

Farooq was not God’s gift to governance. Who knows, the son, bright, articulate, good looking, secular, anchored to New Delhi where his children go to school, may turn out to be the leader Kashmir had waited for. At the outset, he had all the goodwill he required. If he succeeded, the Youth Brigade identified with Rahul would be vindicated.
Right or wrong, the impression in Srinagar is that Rahul’s support to Omar provides him with a sense of security. “It may have gone to his head”, said a professor in Kashmir University.

Lack of access annoys journalists and, in an age of burgeoning media, does not help inaccessible ‘leaders’ either. Omar has acquired the image of being inaccessible among Kashmiris.

As it is the Valley feels neglected when the state’s administration shifts to Jammu for six months. This sense of neglect is further accentuated when the chief minister spends extended weekends in New Delhi with his family.

Mind you, this Sopor violence is not going to dissolve into thin air by some magic. Sopor happens to be the epicentre of Kashmir politics. And on July 1 began the Amarnath Yatra which was the focus of the storm in 2009.

Before Sopor and Amarnath amalgamate lethally, for heaven’s sake pick up those reports of the five Working Groups on Jammu and Kashmir formed by the prime minister in 2006-07. According to M Rasgotra, former foreign secretary, head of the working group on strengthening relations across the Line of Control, “90 per cent of the recommendations can be unilaterally implemented.” The head of one such working group was Hamid Ansari, currently vice president of India. Also, please engage Omar in a dialogue on a feasible devolution package.

This is one of the many ways to soften the atmosphere. The other suggestion is that Omar, young and inexperienced, needs an advisory group. Omar will listen if Rahul, in no official capacity, just as a friend in the same peer group, were to suggest an advisory council for Kashmir.

Remember, Omar’s failure will reflect on Rahul and the youth surge associated with him.

Published 05 July 2010, 17:02 IST

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