Kashmir pins its hopes on young, energetic Omar Abdullah

January 6th, 2009 - 4:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Jan 6 (IANS) For Hassan Parray, Omar Abdullah’s ascendance to the chief ministership of Jammu and Kashmir has brought hope. A casual labourer in a semi-government body here, he has been waiting to be confirmed for the last nine years.“He said he would give employment to us. He also promised to attend to our daily problems of roads, hospitals, essential supplies and drinking water,” said Parray who is 38 - the same age as Abdullah.

Parray believes better days are ahead for him and thousands like him who have lived on empty promises for long in Kashmir which has seen a bloody insurgency since 1989 ravage the economy, wreck families and claim innocent lives.

“He has a clean image. At least nobody can say he failed in his promises in the past because this is his first chance,” said Parray.

Even Abdullah’s strongest adversaries in the separatist camp like Mirwaiz Umer Farooq hesitate from outright criticising the man who has become Jammu and Kashmir’s youngest chief minister.

“He must now represent Kashmir in New Delhi rather than represent New Delhi in Kashmir,” said the Mirwaiz hoping that his advice would be taken seriously by the new chief minister who was sworn in Monday.

The decision to not rotate the chief ministership in the state between the ruling National Conference-Congress alliance and allow Abdullah to head the coalition for a full six-year term is definitely expected to bring stability and strength to the post.

“It is definitely a wise decision. Otherwise the coalition partners start acting like bureaucrats on a tenure posting. Politics has to be different from bureaucracy,” said Bashir Manzar, a newspaper editor here.

“The road ahead for Abdullah is surely thorny, but he is young, energetic and eager to prove himself. That visibly gives hope to many locals.”

The residents of Srinagar city seem to be expecting the world from Abdullah, a management graduate, and he will have to address their issues urgently.

“His party got eight out of eight in Srinagar city. The city roads are dug up like a battlefield. There are problems of essential supplies, traffic jams, healthcare, unemployment etc,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, a college teacher here.

“It is not that anybody here believes Abdullah has a magic wand to deliver things in a second, but what would be keenly watched by everybody is whether he makes an honest effort to weed out corruption, nepotism and other ills from society.”

It is usual for people to pin their hopes on a new political dispensation, but Abdullah’s advantage lies in his youth and the desire to play a long innings in the state’s politics.

“He has a long way to go which would only be possible if he sets course from day one,” said Ali Muhammad, a local businessman here.

People are also eager to see if Abdullah’s words will hold good.

“I don’t believe in the politics of revenge. All of us must work together for a better tomorrow. The people have suffered enough and we cannot waste time in squabbles,” Abdullah said before taking his oath.

Many in Kashmir hope it is an indication that the third generation Abdullah - after grandfather Sheikh Abdullah and father Farooq - definitely wants bygones to be bygones and try for better and honest governance.

Said Aijaz Hussain, a local journalist: “At 38, he became the youngest chief minister of the state. All one can wish him now is wisdom. Wishing him good luck would be naïve, he already has enough of it!”

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