Omar lays foundation for tying the knot with Congress? (News Analysis)

July 23rd, 2008 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party
By F. Ahmed
Srinagar, July 23 (IANS) An impassioned speech by National Conference’s Omar Abdullah that he would not make the “mistake” of standing again with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stood out for its eloquence during the trust vote debate in the Lok Sabha. But it’s being seen here at the same time as a major fence mending effort with the Congress in Jammu and Kashmir. “The National Conference voted in favour of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, its president Omar Abdullah also laid the foundations of what could be the future poll alliance between the Congress and his party by delivering an emotional speech which was very well received by the Congress leaders including the PM and Sonia (Gandhi),” said Riyaz Masroor, a well-known local journalist.

In a forceful speech Tuesday evening Abdullah said: “I made the mistake of standing with them once (in the previous dispensation of the BJP in which he was a minister of state). I will not make the same mistake again.”

Heaping praise on the India-US civil nuclear deal, Abdullah scoffed at the BJP’s plea to him to vote with the opposition in defeating the government.

“These people (BJP-NDA) now want me to vote with them to bring down this government,” Abdullah declared, pumping the air with his right hand - the scorn clearly evident in his voice.

“I am an Indian. I am a Muslim. I’m for the deal,” he said while participating in the closing moments of the debate on the trust motion in the Lok Sabha Tuesday.

The common man in the Kashmir valley believes that the National Conference and Congress seem to have buried their past differences after the latter fell apart with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) headed by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.

“The Congress and PDP actually never behaved like allies during the coalition days. Their ministers not only privately spoke against each other, but also held public meetings to castigate each other,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, 49, a college teacher here.

Miraj-ud-Din, 39, who sells fruit in the Residency Road area of summer capital Srinagar was, however, more cryptic.

“Politicians are wonderful people. When and how they become friends or foes nobody knows for sure,” he said.

Given the histories of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and the Abdullahs, relations between them have always run deep.

The late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the founder of the National Conference, had very close relations with India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi.

“Despite remaining in jail for over a decade after his arrest in 1953, Sheikh Abdullah always had a soft corner for the Nehru family and vice versa,” said Master Habibullah, 65, a retired schoolteacher here.

“Pandit Nehru always regarded the late Sheikh as the tallest Kashmiri leader and so did his daughter Indira Gandhi.

“It was to bring the late Sheikh back into mainstream politics that Indira Gandhi signed the Indira-Abdullah accord in 1975.

“The Congress also supported the Sheikh for government formation in 1975 even when the Sheikh’s party did not have a single member in the state assembly,” said Habibullah.

National Conference patron and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah also signed an accord with Rajiv Gandhi after Indira’s assassination.

“It seems the bitterness of the past has been buried and the two families are back on cordial relations now. Their alliance in the forthcoming state assembly elections appears a foregone conclusion now,” said an editor of a daily newspaper here who declined to be named.

“The Congress would always remember National Conference’s crucial vote (in the July 22 confidence motion) and this means the relationship between the Congress and the PDP is ruined for a long time despite PDP president Mehbooba Mufti casting her party’s lone vote in favour of the United Progressive alliance (UPA) government,” he added.

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