Will Kashmir’s National Conference-Congress panel collapse?

By Binoo Joshi, IANS
Saturday, November 20, 2010

JAMMU - The National Conference-Congress coordination committee in Jammu and Kashmir may be on the verge of collapse if its failure to meet since July and the fissures between their leaders, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Saifuddin Soz, are any indication.

The coordination committee, with Soz as its head, was constituted soon after the two parties, led by the National Conference, formed the coalition government in January 2009. It was tasked with discussing all the major issues in running the government.

But the panel, which includes Omar, his father and union minister Farooq Abdullah and Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and his predecessor Mangat Ram Sharma, has not met since July this year.

According to National Conference sources, state Congress president Soz had started asking for each and every detail of the working of the government and had criticised the administration in public.

On two occasions, the sources said, he created an embarrassing situation for the government - first when he instructed Congress members in the legislative council to stall a bill for setting up three universities in Jammu and Kashmir.

Soz also went public against Omar for his remarks on the nature of the status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian union by asking him to read the “biography of his grandfather Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah” to learn the history of the state.

According to Congress sources, Soz was “right in his assertions as the Congress was a major coalition partner and could not be ignored in matters of governance”.

The sources said there were indications that Omar may pull out of the coordination committee as neither of his two predecessors - Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of the Peoples Democratic Party - was a member of the panel.

Azad had been member of the panel only as long as he was state Congress chief, not after he became chief minister.

Fingers are also being pointed at the way Soz has been showing his unhappiness with the working of the Omar government, particularly the chief minister’s style of functioning.

“Soz has his own political ambitions. He thinks it is now or never for him in becoming chief minister of the state,” a source told IANS.

A minister of the National Conference said Omar has in the past few weeks tried to reach out to the people and made the functioning of the government better than the days when stone-throwing protests were at their peak in the valley.

The way Soz had acted only showed that he was “more keen on creating trouble than smoothening the functioning of the government”, the minister told IANS.

As such, the coordination committee may not meet for some more time, the sources said, adding it may result in the collapse of the panel.

(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at binoo.j@ians.in)

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