When CM Cries
Tears will be forgotten, picture of helplessness will linger on
POINT OF VIEW
When Chief Minister Omar Abdullah broke down through his speech in Legislative Assembly on March 5, it was not the first time we were witness to such a spectacle from our young CM. In past, Omar has delivered many an impassioned address which have won him admirers not only in Kashmir but across India. Even though he has always been one of the most articulate Television talking heads in India, it was his rousing 2008 speech in parliament that gave him a national profile with a touch of political charisma.
And when he took over as the JK Chief Minister towards the end of the same year, Omar seemed to bring a new ruling intelligence to the town. Here was a raw new leader free from any political baggage and with an open-minded approach to Kashmir problem who was hoped to change the old ways of doing business in Kashmir. This is despite the fact that Omar in his election campaign had promised no game-changing reforms. It was a singularly lacklustre campaign fought on the debris of Amarnath unrest and deaths of around 60 Kashmiri youth not known for any political agenda or striking slogans. But public expectations, nevertheless, rose from the novelty of Omar’s emergence on the scene. And in the fifth year of his government it is these expectations which make a pile of ashes.
After he took the government and the rubber met the road, nothing seemed to change. In fact, things only became more banal and routine. Two successive summer strifes to 2010 further hobbled the governance. And one of the greatest ironies of his rule is that with all the enviable articulation at his command, Omar could not build a discourse around his government. Things went along as a matter of course.
So far his approach has been withdrawn and furtive, and more of an open-ended, day to day nature rather than informed by a political narrative - or even some kind of a policy undertone - associated with political parties. Overall, the sense that this government has exuded is bureaucratic. Omar has sometimes rationalized this as his coalition’s focus on governance un-interfered by the self-serving politics. True, a governance centric agenda cannot be faulted but a governance pursued for its own sake renders the entire enterprise of government sterile and by and by leads to a disconnect with the people. More so, when this governance is about the same old ways of delivery of services ridden by graft, delay and inefficiency.
Omar certainly has tried to introduce the measures like RTI Act – Act has since been diluted by a new set of rules which govern its implementation in the state - and Public Services Guarantee Act to usher in accountability in the administration, but there is little indication that the bureaucracy has become amenable to the expectations of common man or that the bureaucracy has become less apathetic at the interface with people.
While these failings are not characteristic of his administration alone, what reinforces the feeling of poor governance in this coalition’s case is distinct lack of the sense of anybody being in command. And where Omar disappoints most is when he occasionally surfaces from nowhere to give the perfect articulation of the sentiments of his people generating expectations of redress only to retreat back into shadows. Things end up going on regardless.
In his speech over the death of Baramula youth in Assembly, CM seems to have explained this riddle. He has acknowledged that he is helpless and is not in control of everything as people seem to believe. This is a disturbing admission for an elected Chief Minister to make. When the forces supposed to be under his control kill a young man in a patently unprovoked firing, CM says he can only ask for justice and which implicitly means he can’t guarantee that it will be done. Army is shielded by AFSPA and there is no way that the soldier who shot Tahir Ahmad Sofi can be booked for murder. CM’s painstaking efforts to get the law revoked have already been overruled by the security agencies. Omar also says that the centre didn’t heed his reservations about Afzal Guru’s execution.
But while CM frankly admits the limitations of his role, he has hardly ever sought to assert himself, often resigning himself to appearing the weakest among the power centres ruling Kashmir: centre, security establishment and his coalition partner Congress. There can be three explanations to CM’s predicament: One, his realization that he can’t challenge these power centres and hence chooses to lie low. Two, his unwillingness to pay a little price to reclaim his ground. Three, his lying low is a deliberate strategy as it suits his politics. In fact, all these explanation feed on each other. But one thing is clear. There is no room for a CM to appear helpless. And if he still pleads to be one, he is playing politics. And there can’t be more potent political an act than an impassioned, moist-eyed speech.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 12 Mar 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 12 Mar 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Mar 2013 00:00:00 IST
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