Omar Abdullah government keeps Kashmir’s dreams alive(100 days in office)

April 12th, 2009 - 5:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Binoo Joshi and F. Ahmed
Jammu/Srinagar, April 12 (IANS) As the National Conference-Congress government completes 100 days in office Tuesday, hopes of a new dawn still run high in Jammu and Kashmir. The most significant factor in favour of the ruling alliance is the Mr. Clean image of young Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Thirty-nine-year-old Abdullah’s exposure at the national level, his being the scion of Kashmir’s first political family and British educated at that, his clear thinking and straight talking have raised his profile by several notches.

The first 100 days of the Omar Abdullah government show one of the biggest challenges he faces still continues - street protests over human rights violations.

As for reports that the Taliban have crossed into Kashmir, the army as well as the government have refuted these. They also say there is no unusual escalation in violence in the state as with the melting of the snow in spring, mountain passes open up, and infiltration from across the border tends to go up.

The state government still continues to be hamstrung for resources. After assuming office, Abdullah announced the implementation of Sixth Pay Commission recommendations for state government employees, effectively spelling out salary hikes.

But the state pays its salary bill with money from the centre. And Abdullah requires money desperately. Despite a friendly government at the centre, he has only been able to get assurances on this front.

However, the impression among people is that Abdullah is a doer and will deliver.

“He is energetic. He carries no baggage of the past. After all, the team is just as good as the captain,” said a local newspaper editor here.

The man on the street also feels that Abdullah has as much at stake in the future of the state as an ordinary Kashmiri.

“He has to ensure that he can have the moral courage to come back tomorrow and ask for votes. He is young and well meaning. If he can’t make a difference then nobody else can,” said Showkat Ahmad, 34, a fruit seller in Ganderbal from where Abdullah won the December 2008 assembly elections here.

Though the government’s priorities include peace, anti-corruption measures, employment, development and tourism, the common perception is that unless corruption is eradicated nothing will work.

“Corruption is the basic problem. It overshadows everything else. Omar might get tens of millions from the centre or motivate the corporate world to invest in the state. It would all go down the drain unless corruption is tackled seriously,” Sajad Ahmad, 45, a college teacher here.

“Nothing works here unless you pay your way through. It is unbelievable how corrupt society here has become.”

Abdullah’s image as a person who means business came to light when he succeeded in shifting the brigade headquarters from north Kashmir’s Bomai village. People had threatened to migrate from there unless the camp was shifted after two innocent youth were killed reportedly by some troopers there.

“That was really impressive. He stood by his word in contrast to those who ruled here in the past. But if the demand snowballs into a valley-wide campaign for shifting of security force camps from every nook and corner, how does the chief minister plan to address that?” said a intelligence officer here who did not wish to be named.

As far as relations between two alliance partners go, Abdullah appears to be a better manager than his two predecessors, Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress and Mufti Muhammad Sayeed of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

“During the tenure of the Mufti and Azad, relations between the Congress and the PDP reminded one of the fish market,” said Ghulam Sarwar, 47, a businessman here.

It is believed that the support given to him by Congress president Sonia Gandhi is the single most important binding force between the party and Abdullah’s National Conference.

“The Congress cannot annoy its top leadership, which looks on Omar as somebody they can do business with - even better than with his father Farooq Abdullah,” said Ajaz Ahmad, a local journalist.

“It almost functions as a single party government,” said Ajaz Ahmad, a local journalist.

Central government officials have also expressed satisfaction over security arrangements here for the April-May Lok Sabha elections and for the pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine that begins in July.

“It is still bouquets for Abdullah. He cannot become complacent because Kashmir has been the Waterloo of many a reputation in the past,” said Manzoor Ahmad, 47, a trader in old city area of summer capital Srinagar.

-Indo-Asian News Service

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