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Principles & tactics
Omar’s speech at HT conclave reveals the wide gap between his word and deed
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Politics in India, in general, and here in Jammu and Kashmir, in particular, has been sufficiently degraded by the (mis)conduct of its leading practitioners to leave no scope for accepting the word of those who still have the audacity to claim high moral ground. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s pontification, on the stage offered to him by a tycoon-owned newspaper in New Delhi on Saturday, falls into this category. From what Omar sought to convey, to draw a favourable parallel between him and his comparable rivals in the field, it was obvious that his argument suffered from basic flaws.

Firstly, the young chief minister, either unknowingly or deliberately, sought to substitute principles for strategy, and vice versa, to project an unblemished image of his own leadership in comparison with that of his predecessors and contemporaries. Secondly, he went on to justify his failings and shortcomings by ascribing them to the systemic deficiencies. A glaring omission in presentation of his case was the explanation for a string of inconsistencies defining his own public career.

In this connection he specifically mentioned his own role in seeking, but failing, to get rid of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from his state. He castigated his predecessor for having ‘discovered’ the demerits of the AFSPA only after he was out of power. On the contrary, Omar went to great length to contend how hard he had been pushing the case for lifting of the AFSPA even while being in power (with the Congress support). On the face of it, the argument sounds valid. But looking deeper, it also exposes Omar’s own comparable record in poor light. Indeed, his culpability would seem to be of a more serious nature.

From 1999 to 2004, Omar and his National Conference party defied logic, rationality and ideological morality for the sake of opportunistic political alignment with the Sangh Parivar’s political sword arm, the BJP. Omar had no compunction in occupying a ministerial berth in the AB Vajpayee government during which period Gujarat’s Narendra Modi emerged as the mascot of the Parivar. Omar and his father even pocketed the insult of their party’s autonomy resolution being trampled upon by their political masters in New Delhi.

But no sooner the Vajpayee government fell Omar and his father received divine enlightenment to retrospectively discover what an evil the BJP was. Omar’s famous speech in the Lok Sabha, in praise of the Congress, that eventually earned him and his dad their present positions in power is a classic example of a politician’s proverbial short memory. There is no doubt that they are not alone in this game. Certainly not. Today the arena is full of them. The sin of compromising one’s fundamental ideological commitment for the sake of power is evidently more serious than that of shifting one’s position over the transitory issue of the AFSPA. The difference is that between compromising a principled commitment and changing one’s strategic position.

Omar’s shortcoming does not end there. The high moral ground he has taken over the corruption issue suffers from lack of conviction. The chief minister’s track record is anything but inspiring. Public perception about his own conduct in the mysterious murder of Haji Mohammad Yousuf last year at the chief minister’s official residence has badly dented Omar’s image. Instead of coming clean on the issue and letting due process of law take its normal course the chief minister opted for something too odd to convince. The case of six MLAs of the BJP allegedly thrown out from their party for taking bribe to vote for the NC candidate is another disturbing case.

Chief Minister’s resistance to constituting public institutions to combat corruption, despite the Governor’s public emphasis on its need, is incomprehensible. To blame the coalition arrangement for failure to tackle this menace is not convincing at all. As someone rightly pointed out it is only an excuse for covering up. The message behind Omar’s address at the New Delhi conclave falls flat on the test bed of his own performance.
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News Updated at : Monday, November 19, 2012
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