Srinagar Bursts Out Again

Mehebooba-Mufty_AFPThe young and vibrant Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir Omar Abdullah is fastly losing his charisma to govern the state. The Sophian tragedy is spilling its bad effect on the capable man and threatens to destroy him politically. It is high time that Omar stops his frequent personal outings, fancy games and time pass activities and concentrate on the governance. This is the last chance given to the promising young man by the people of the state.

The Times of India writes (30 July 2009)

The spat between the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party is a new low for politics in Jammu and Kashmir. In the past few days,
PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti flung a mike at the Speaker of the J&K assembly, a senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig randomly accused chief minister Omar Abdullah of involvement in a sex scandal and an indignant CM marched to the governor’s residence with his resignation. All the drama made for less than edifying viewing. Both Omar and Mehbooba must share the blame for enacting the low farce.

Abdullah has since climbed down from the moral high ground, while PDP leaders have agreed to function as a constructive opposition in the legislative assembly. Both parties must stick to their words. Hopefully, better sense will prevail on Mehbooba who seems oblivious of the promise her party leaders made on prime-time television that they’ll not create petty disputes. She was at her aggressive worst on Wednesday, disrupting proceedings in the assembly. Such theatrics are unlikely to help her political career or the PDP in the long run. Similarly, Omar’s impulsive gesture to quit on moral grounds was an irresponsible act. Political instability is the last thing that J&K can afford at this time. Leaders must handle criticism even vitriolic allegations without losing their cool.

J&K politicians must realise that they are at a historic juncture. People have in recent times ignored boycott calls from separatist groups and diktats from militants, in order to vote in elections with the hope that a representative government is best placed to tackle civic issues and other matters of governance. But the performance of the elected representatives in the assembly makes a mockery of their trust in parliamentary democracy. It amounts to betrayal of the hopes of a people who have lived through unimaginable violence for more than two decades.

The preference among mainstream parties for histrionics at the cost of statecraft may be a reflection of Kashmir’s political culture. Theatrics and exaggeration have been an integral part of political activity in the state since militancy broke out in the late 1980s. Measured political articulation may have become impossible in a climate of fear. However, that situation is slowly changing. Reasonably high turnouts in successive elections signal the shift in the political ground. Mainstream politicians, beneficiaries of the turnaround, must reflect the new situation in the state and adopt a language that is constructive and suitable for governance. They must not mess up their mandate by indulging in silly spats and mindless allegations. Don’t let go of a historic opportunity.

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