A week later,Omar has the last laugh
Srinagar, Oct 8: For a while, it had appeared that what the killings of around 120 youth last year didn’t achieve, the alleged custodial death of the NC activist Syed Yousuf would: the removal of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah from power. But a week after an unyielding political slugfest, primarily between ruling National Conference and opposition PDP and the frenetic media spotlight, Omar is set to emerge unscathed and retain power.
True Congress support came handy. Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi defended Omar at a juncture when he needed it most. “As the chief minister, Omar Abdullah made a formal statement and a clarification, though he was not obliged to. He has asked the chief justice to have a judicial inquiry (conducted),” Singhvi said. He also said there was no need to “have speculation in advance”. Incidentally, Singhvi, an eminent lawyer, is also the legal counsel for Abdullahs.
This timely defence has put a damper on the PDP bid to use the Yousuf’s death to push Omar out of power. But it was not Congress support that proved the game-changer. PDP failed to effectively take the issue to the streets even while it worked up a pandemonium in the Assembly. Beyond a made-for-media rally on Residency Road, the issue evoked little spontaneous reaction from the Valley. Kashmir streets, more or less, treated the development as a media event which had to heard and watched rather than responded through a mass protest.
On the other hand, what really built some pressure on Omar was the continued focus on the story in national media, with a section of it deciding, for once, to go all out against Omar, but making a turnaround soon after. A pitched political battle was fought in the TV studios with NC’s gaggle of ridiculously inarticulate talking heads only ending up scoring self-goals. PDP, on its part, deployed its veteran leader and the eminent legal luminary Muzaffar Hussain Baig to lead its campaign against Omar. And for a while Baig did succeed, virtually cornering NC through his overpowering arguments.
But this was until Omar after an initial decision to remain silent staged a comeback on his preferred Delhi-based TV channels. However, his interviews to NDTV and CNN-IBN left a lot to desire.
In his answers Omar almost churlishly seemed to stress that he was dishing out an absolute truth even while in parts the replies appeared too implausible to inspire belief. But CM was in his element in the interview with Arnab Goswami who all these days had challenged Omar to come on his channel to answer his “41 specific questions”. But by the time half the interview was over, Omar already appeared to have got the better of ‘bigmouthed’ Arnab. Armed with the strongest questions for an interviewee who, by all means, had to juggle with a severely limited stock of the answers, Arnab ended up acquitting Omar, in what seemed to be a “stage-managed” show. Perhaps, the biggest setback for the campaign to dislodge Omar was the separatist reluctance to join it. Except for the perfunctory condemnation of Yousuf’s death, separatists stayed away from the issue. Yousuf’s being an NC worker involved in alleged illegal financial dealings also didn’t help the matters. This made him untouchable for the separatists which, in turn, meant that the issue failed to resonate with the people. If anything, this has once again proved the continued relevance of the separatists to the Kashmir street.
All these circumstances combined in the end to let Omar off the hook. However, there may be still some trouble in store for Omar. Congress which went extra step to bail him out, might renew the demand for the rotational CM. Considering the beleaguered situation in which Yousuf’s death has landed it, some January, will NC be able to stand its ground on the issue.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 8 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 8 Oct 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 9 Oct 2011 00:00:00 IST
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