73rd Amendment: Congress, NC square up for face-off
Srinagar, Sep 27: There are rumblings again in the ranks of coalition government. This time over the refusal by National Conference to take Congress call for the adoption of the 73rd amendment of the Constitution of India to empower Panchayats in the state.
The two parties have publicly sparred with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and State Congress Chief Prof Saif-u-Din Soz hurling accusations against each other. What has made the situation this time grave is that Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi has also joined the fight. Both in a Congress Working Committee meeting in New Delhi and at a public rally in Jharkhand, Rahul talked about the need to salvage Panchayat system in the state by giving more power to Panchs and Sarpanchs.
Omar, on the other hand, has accused Congress of doublespeak, saying in official meetings the two Congress ministers themselves had opposed the empowerment of Panchayats.
More significantly, Omar bluntly rejected the call for incorporating 73rd amendment in the state constitution saying the JK didn’t need Government of India to empower its Panchayats. “We don’t need government of India. We have our own constitution and when we would like we make our amendment,” the CM said at the press conference on Wednesday. This is an unprecedented statement which shows a rejection of Rahul’s advice for the adoption of 73rd amendment and a renewed assertion of a degree of autonomy in the CM’s style of working.
However, the issue of the empowerment of Panchayat representatives in the state has assumed national dimensions following the killing of two elected Sarpanchs in a span of fortnight. Congress has cleverly grafted the issue of the adoption of 73rd amendment on to the ongoing uproar over Sarpanch killings.
Soz in his press conference rejected the security for Panchs and Sarpanchs as an answer to the killings and sought instead the empowerment of Panchayat institutions. Opinion in New Delhi has echoed Soz in this.
In their public posture the two parties have therefore squared up for a face-off: Omar will not incorporate 73rd amendment and the state Congress backed by Rahul would press for its adoption. But the differences over the issue are unlikely to come to a head. The issue is likely to die down as the outcry over Sarpanch killings tapers off.
Despite some intermittent difficulties the coalition partners have gotten along well, unlike preceding PDP-Congress alliance which hardly ever settled down to smooth governance. Omar has proved himself a more passive and accommodationist partner, an approach that has sometimes reflected poorly on his style of functioning.
There are, however, issues that he has chosen to hold fast to, despite the contrary point of view of Congress. AFSPA being one such issue. He has also constantly called for the need for resolution of Kashmir problem and at times expressed frustration about the inability of India and Pakistan to come to an understanding on the state. And now he has defiantly highlighted the fact that Kashmir has its “own constitution” while rejecting the need to import the 73rd amendment to the state.
But at the same time, there is no getting away from the fact that there is no alternative to Congress when it comes to formation of the next government in the state in 2014. Omar - and PDP too – can overlook this fact at his own peril. So, CM can choose to take on Congress but only up to a point. More so, when Rahul has decided to back the state Congress in the fresh round of stand-off between coalition partners.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 27 Sep 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 27 Sep 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 28 Sep 2012 00:00:00 IST
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