The new role
Can NC’ s “working president” make the difference
IMPRESSIONS BY BINOO JOSHI
After many many years, National Conference has a working president. This working president is Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. It is something rare in the National Conference that the Chief Minister has become the “working president” of the party. In this party which has ruled the state of Jammu and Kashmir for most of the years since independence, the Chief Minister and President of National Conference are inseparable identities. It was true of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, at least since 1975, when he took over as Chief Minister after the Sheikh- Indira accord and when he revived the National Conference. It was also a fact of life as long as Sheikh Abdullah’s eldest son Farooq Abdullah was the Chief Minister, and when he stepped down in June 2002, he handed over the party president’s post to Omar, hoping that the son would rise and become Chief Minister. The politics of the times and the 2002 election results upset the calculations, no one from the Abdullah clan became a member of the elected legislative Assembly. For next six years, Omar was President and his father as patron of the party. And when the National Conference-Congress coalition government came to power, Farooq Abdullah took over reins of the party, relieving Omar of his party responsibilities. There is more of politics than history in the whole sequence of events that followed after Omar became Chief Minister in January 2009.
At the moment, the party was feeling neglected. There were insiders in the party- some close to Omar, others to Farooq Abdullah, the party was not landing anywhere. There were off and on efforts by Farooq Abdullah to connect with the party cadres. He would meet them at public meetings and visit their homes. But there was a lack of consistency, despite his best efforts. Farooq could not be present all the time at all the places, as a union minister he had his responsibilities of the ministry at the Centre, and apart from that his health was also not allowing him to take that much of strain . There was a pressure on him from all the sides. In the process, a fear was growing within the party cadres as to what would happen to the Grand Old Party of Kashmir. Some of the party leaders, in private and public, were giving vent to their frustration. Some were frustrated for they did not see any hope of them finding a place in the ministry, others were genuine in their criticism. While National Conference was making on and off attempts to revive itself centered around Farooq Abdullah, the bete noire of the Abdullah family, the main Opposition Peoples Democratic Party, had become hyper-active, reaching out to the people and making the National Conference leadership- Omar Abdullah and his ministers to react. National Conference was digging up old issues, peppered with twists to the days of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as Home Minister of the country. That is how the political matters were being handled – the most interesting factor was that sometimes they were interchanging their role. National Conference owning some themes, PDP making counter claims. For example, who started work on the Mughal Road or who built power projects or who did not, whether the panchayats were empowered or not.
Against this backdrop, Omar Abdullah became “ working president”. This can be easily decoded that Omar is “ President” of the party, the “ working” is a prefix to retain the stature of Farooq Abdullah as president. That was a political necessity , so that the young and the old find themselves on the same wave length. Whether this experiment will succed or not, the answer lies with the time. The initial enthusiasm that Omar has shown through his visits to the two border districts of Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region, has given some hope to the party cadres, but the moot question remains, can Omar sustain the enthusiasm and bring the party to the level of grand old days. Much has changed and then he has a responsibility toward the office and promise of Chief Minister. If he does so, history would judge him differently than he has been assessed so far. Omar has to live upto expectations. The PDP bashing is okay, but more important is to create place for National Conference in the hearts and minds of the people – a term that has different connotation in political lexicon than that of the armed forces who invented this catch phrase.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 30 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 30 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 1 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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