Omar Abdullah sworn in as Jammu and Kashmir chief minister (Roundup)

January 5th, 2009 - 8:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiJammu, Jan 5 (IANS) Omar Abdullah was Monday sworn in as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, ending six months of governor’s rule in the troubled state.Abdullah, 38, scion of the the first political family of Jammu and Kashmir, took oath along with nine ministers, including Tara Chand of the Congress as his deputy. The Abdullah-led National Conference and the Congress have formed an alliance to rule the state.

Clad in a black sherwani and white pyjama, Abdullah, the youngest chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir so far, walked up the aisle to the flower decked dais with a smile on his face as Governor N.N. Vohra administered him the oath of office at Zorawar Singh Auditorium in Jammu, the winter capital of the state.

As he approached the dais, his wife Payal, their two sons Zahir and Zamir, and his father Farooq Abdullah, a former chief minister, broke into loud cheers.

The senior Abdullah could not hide his joy on his son’s elevation. Asked how he felt, he sang: “Papa Kehte hain achhe kaam karegaa; logon ki mushkil door karega…”, a modified version of a song from a 1988-hit “Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak”.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti were among those present at the ceremony.

After taking the oath of office in English, Abdullah sat on an elegantly crafted chair, waiting for other colleagues to be sworn in.

The National Conference president told reporters that he wanted to remembered as the peoples’ chief minister.

“The people of my state stood by me, understood my ideas and brought me to this position,” he said. “I don’t want to be seen as a chief minister but rather be remembered as servant of people.”

As the eighth chief minister of India’s only Muslim-majority state that has been ravaged by years of separatist insurgency, observers feel Abdullah’s path won’t be smooth.

Karan Singh, a Rajya Sabha member and senior Congress leader, who also belongs to the former Dogra rulers in Jammu, said: “There are many issues that Omar and his government have to deal with. But I am sure that if the National Conference and the Congress work together, they can deliver on all fronts.”

Said Syed Sibtain Qadri, a law student in Jammu: “Omar (Abdullah) has emerged from the shadows of his illustrious family. He has a burden of expectations. He has to manage not just a simple administration. He has to tackle many complexities in the terror ravaged state. The communal wedge left by Amarnath land dispute is apparently still afresh.”

The scion of the Abdullah dynasty, Omar is the third generation chief minister from the family after his grandfather Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and father Farooq Abdullah.

Ten years ago, the business management expert stepped into politics and became an MP. At 29, he was minister of state in the 1999-2004 National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. At 32, he became the president of the National Conference but lost miserably in the 2002 election.

During Monday’s cerermony, Vohra administered the oaths of office and secrecy to the 10-member council of ministers - five each from the National Conference (NC) and the Congress.

Barring Tarachand and Sham Lal of the Congress, all others who were sworn in have been former ministers. They include Abdur Rahim Rather, Ali Mohammad Sagar, Mian Altaf and Surjit Singh Salathia of the NC, and Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed and Rigzin Jora of the Congress.

The state elections concluded recently threw up a fractured mandate. The NC emerged as the single largest party with 28 seats but fell short of majority in the 87-member house to form the government on its own. Its coalition partner Congress bagged 17 seats.

Jammu and Kashmir was without an elected government since July last after the former coalition government of the Congress and the PDP fell apart over Amarnath shrine land allotment controversy.

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