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Editorial
The fear factor
Omar’s nervy response to PDP rhetoric betrays his latent fears about the Congress
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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) father-daughter-leadership have a reason to be pleasantly surprised, thanks to chief minister Omar Abdullah. Mehboobah Mufti’s speculative rhetoric that her party was poised to return to power after the next assembly polls has obviously hit the bull’s eye, obliging Omar to go public with almost instant rebuttal. In normal course the National Conference and its leadership should have taken the PDP’s rhetorical expression in their stride, like most of other players in the field had done. But the NC seems to have sensed some kind of resounding impact, obviously for its own reasons. And there are quite a few reasons for them to feel jittery. The foremost of them being that Omar Abdullah is perceived to be a non-performing asset for the coalition. Most of the time, the chief minister has to offer explanation for why his government was not able to honour this or that commitment he had made to the public.

Secondly, the PDP is not alone in selling speculation about the future set-up. NC’s coalition partner, Congress is in the race too. The PCC leaders have been boasting that no party can form the government ‘without our support’. Their vague rhetoric leaves the prospect wide open. Viewed in the context of the widening rift between the NC and the Congress, over some of the key issues, these speculative expressions sound credible. Besides, the Congress in the recent past has shown that the NC was not the only option for them. Parties, groups and even individuals having clout on the ground are a much wanted commodity in New Delhi’s stable. That is why even a ‘Ghulam Hassan Mir’ or a ‘Hakim Mohammad Yasin’ is preserved and protected like a political asset. The PDP has established itself as a viable substitute for the NC. New Delhi has always kept open lines communication with India’s scarce political assets in Kashmir. Congress party’s presidential candidate Pranab Mukherji’s meeting with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was prominently played out over the official mass media.

This backdrop explains Omar’s hasty response to Mehboobah’s rhetoric. Lurking fears of the NC leadership, compounded by the troublesome behaviour of its Congress ally, get accentuated with each passing day. Omar’s loss of credibility on the performance front has been causing worry in the Congress circles here as well as in New Delhi. General impression is that of a non-performing arrangement and leadership without any impact. Youth Congress-led agitation over panchayat empowerment and clamour for ‘restoration’ of education and public works portfolios is only the manifestation of growing uneasiness in the Congress.

History dealt a bad hand to Omar. The third generation Abdullah found himself where he is today under totally different circumstances from those of his predecessors. Sheikh Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah remained at the helm with a viable power structure of their own. Whatever concessions they had to yield to New Delhi, under various compulsions, were well within their own local manageable limits. Not so with Omar. NC’s degraded leadership has come home to roost.

In today’s calculus, NC and PDP are interchangeable in so far as New Delhi’s options go. That was demonstrated in 2002. Although the NC has come to replace the PDP since 2009 the latter’s asset value remains unaffected. It is common knowledge that Omar narrowly escaped from being shown the door in 2010 because of his government’s capitulation in the face of mass uprising. Whether the PDP leadership had all this in mind when it sought to fly its rhetorical balloon is not really as important as the fact of its impact on Omar’s mind. He went to great length to reassure his supporters that he was there. No doubt the first round of this game goes to the PDP.


News Updated at : Friday, September 14, 2012
 
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