Assembly: Omar’s First Longish Speech as Leader of Opposition

Riyaz Ul Khaliq

SRINAGAR

“Take one step and if you need me, I will be by your side; my team will be with you,” Omar Abdullah during discussion on Governor's speech on May 27, 2016. (KL Images: Bilal Bahadur)
“Take one step and if you need me, I will be by your side; my team will be with you,” Omar Abdullah during discussion on Governor’s speech on May 27, 2016. (KL Images: Bilal Bahadur)

Paying homage to late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, former CM and National Conference working president, Omar Abdullah, Friday led a scathing attack on Mehbooba Mufti led PDP-BJP Coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.

Omar today participated in Governor’s motion of thanks held on May 25 which he missed. The NC leader was out of station and joined 2016-17 J&K Budget Session on day third day, today.

“Through Governor’s address, government wants to present its report card,” Omar told the lower house after completion of question hour today. “But,” he quickly added, “it was visionless and more of praise worthy document in honour of late Mufti Sayeed.”

“I too understand him (late Mufti Sayeed) as a political institution,” Omar said, “but what did you do in last 16 months? There was nothing in Governor’s address which could have detailed your work, achievement and vision for the next year.”

The third day of the current 35-day budget session witnessed din, commotion, slogans and walkouts. As the business resumed early today, the opposition led by NC asked government to initiate debate on Handwara killings and NFSA implementation in J&K. However, treasury benches continued business during question hour.

After speaker asked MLA Baramulla, Javaid Baig, to initiate motion of thanks on Governor’s address, NC lawmakers led by Omar returned to the house, though Congress men preferred to stay away.

“Mere saying ‘government ensured corruption free governance’ won’t work,” Omar told Baig who spoke ahead of him.

Accusing first time woman CM, Mehbooba, being “person of contradictions”, Omar said, “I am well aware how you (PDP) formed government in desperation but I am personally moved by your situation.”

“I know fully how you have been in this chair which I occupied before you,” he told while addressing the house in general and Mehbooba in particular. “There (as CM), mistrust is created, doubts do rounds; CMs are unable to trust people,” he added, “you are in a fix whether to listen to your own people or not. Advices from your own people might not end up benefitting anyone.”

He alleged Madam Mufti of not sticking to a single point in last sixteenth months.

“I don’t have to remind you of your speeches seeking votes against right wing BJP,” Omar said, “you and people have recordings of your campaigns.”

“You told people if BJP is to be stopped then vote for PDP because NC to puraanay paapi hai,” he said. Interestingly, Omar was a junior minister in 2000 BJP led NDA government.

Omar charged Mehbooba of “misleading people”. “I don’t understand why you didn’t accept our offer of friendship,” he said, “you had promised people that union government will be sending huge money to J&K. Where is that?”

Opposition disrupted proceedings on day third of 2016-17 budget session.
Opposition disrupted proceedings on day third of 2016-17 budget session.

Agenda of Alliance

Omar though lauded Agenda of Alliance (AoA) but lashed out at PDP-BJP government for “missing on ground zero”.

“What about the implementation of AoA you bragged about,” he asked the CM who was silently sitting and listening to the speech of her predecessor.

“You talked about regional balance, development, AFSPA removal, army sending back to barracks, internal dialogue; where is it?” he asked.

“Recently, your own (PDP) member was told in Parliament that ‘no one can think about removal of AFSPA from Kashmir’,” he said.

He asked PDP-BJP government about its assurances of taking back the power projects from NHPC. “You wasted two months in preparing AoA saying you were making framework for that but union government’s power minister trashed by saying the demands can’t be translated into decisions.”

Supporting his claim that AoA was not implemented on ground, Omar ridiculed Mehbooba by saying, “mine words may not go well with you, but whatever I am saying was actually confessed by your own people who raised questions over AoA implementation.”

He said that PDP government talks about regional development and balance in J&K. “You said that the divided vote share made this alliance possible but where is the land identified for AIIMS in Kashmir. Nowhere!”

“IIT was given to Jammu which is good but you have failed to get smart city for Srinagar. And even if tomorrow, Union Government announces it, Jammu will erupt against it,” Omar said, “Kashmiris will never do it as IIT was given to Jammu.”

Sarcastic, Omar said, “I can’t identify places which have been selected for smart cities but our two capital cities can’t make it to the list.”

“The AoA, and late Mufti was vocal about connecting regions and hearts of people,” he said, “but now certain groups are emboldened and take out armed rallies in Chenab and Jammu regions.”

“How are you going to connect people when they are scared; your ministers remind Jammu Muslims of 1947… It is your responsibility to give security to Muslims of Jammu.”

Omar took on Mehbooba asking her what happened to the Tribal Ministry. “There is nothing on ground zero; no grants were given. It is farce.”

CM Mehbooba Mufti
CM Mehbooba Mufti listening to the speech of her predecessor, Omar Abdullah.

Asking CM Mehbooba Mufti to tell people when she will be implementing seventh pay commission, he said, “I begged and implemented sixth pay commission and paid arrears to J&K employees.”

Lashing out at PDP-BJP government for “failing” on developmental front, Omar said, “where is Rs 80000 Cr package? I haven’t seen such a huge package in my tenure.”

“What we saw during late Mufti’s nine months is macadamization of roads. Thanks to (Altaf) Bukhari sahab (Then PWD Minister),” he said. “This government is claiming that bridges are being constructed but where?” he questioned. “Not at least in our (Opposition MLA Constituencies) areas.”

Death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, CBMs and Oath of Office

Omar criticised Mufti for her “flip-flop” nature alleging that she “wasted two crucial months’ time” of J&K people.

Omar reminded Mehbooba of her Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) she sought from Union government before taking over as CM.

“You sought CBMS from Union Government and were assertive that you won’t sit in CM’s chair if CBMS were not fulfilled,” Omar told Ms Mehbooba, “but it was your personal choice

“It was your own choice to seek CBMs,” he said, your party was ready to go ahead with government formation as Muzaffar Hussain Baig met Governor NN Vohra with letter for support in your favour but later didn’t hand it over to him.”

Praising Vohra’s two month stint as administrative head of J&K, Omar said, “people got relief money; some things started getting implemented on ground.” “But suddenly you flew to Delhi,” he told Ms Mufti, “You met Amit Shah, returned home and again fata fut were flown back to Union capital.”

“Will you please tell us what happened to the CBMs you sought outside Jammu Raj Bhawan? Where are they, people need to know,” he asked the CM.

Revealing that the moves of Ms Mehbooba even “sacred” NC party men as they expected “huge package from Mehbooba’s meeting with PM Narendra Modi”, Omar said, “but it proved hoax as you said that the meeting with Modi satisfied you.” “Whatever happened in the meeting, only you are aware about it.” “But,” he added, “we can’t forget the statement of a senior BJP leader who said that Ms Mehbooba just sought blessings of PM Modi nothing else.” “But then you became CM on the same salary; you followed the same path.”

Omar further ridiculed the PDP president as how her “party men were ready to form government in league with BJP”. “Perhaps you were scared that without your own self, government will be formed so you rushed to Delhi,” he said.

NFSA Implementation

Lashing out at PDP-BJP combine for mishandling issues in J&K, Omar Abdullah said that the last government headed by late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had accepted that there were flaws in National Food Security Act (NFSA) and there was a need to bring state law about it.

“When your own minister confessed that there were discrepancies in NFSA then why did you implement it?” “But, you worked in haste and implemented it,” he alleged, “how has NFSA helped us which governor talked about?”

He said that Governor rule increased the scale of ration but this government brought “Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Food Scheme thus again giving subsidy”.

“If NFSA is implemented, why are you implementing this scheme then?” he questioned, “you failed to bring anything from the Union government.”

J&K’s Special Status

Taking the government head on, Omar Abdullah said that the advocate general during his tenure fought with Union government and stopped NEET from being implemented in J&K. “You failed to save J&K,” he told addressing treasury benches. “Thanks to Jaya Lallitha (Tamil Nadu CM) who raised objections with Delhi and an ordinance was brought in thus saving your face for one more year.”

“The NEET implementation is a direct attack on the special status of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, “your government failed to defend it in Supreme Court.”

He said that because education doesn’t fall in concurrent list, so only J&K Education minister can decide about the state’s education policy.

The security bandobast in and outside NIT Srinagar after cricket controversy. (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)
The security bandobast in and outside NIT Srinagar after cricket controversy. (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

National Institute of Technology (NIT) Issue

“CM said that it wasn’t an issue which is a lie because it was a grave issue,” Omar said referring to the NIT controversy.

“You brought disrepute to J&K student community,” he told the CM, “our students studying across J&K got unsecured, humiliated.”

Omar referred to CM Ms Mehbooba Mufti’s Mata Vaishno Devi speech alongside PM Narendra Modi. “You asked Kashmiris to ensure safety of non-locals in J&K but what about our own students studying across Indian colleges and universities?” “You dint talk about their safety and security?” he asked CM, “their safety is someone’s responsibility.” “If you would have talked, it was being transmitted live, and your voice could have reached every corner of India.”

He lashed out at government for replacing J&K Police with CRPF. “Our police are not now trusted,” he said, “wherever there are non-locals in J&K, CRPF is being posted. What is this?”

Handwara Issue

Omar ridiculed the J&K Government for issuing a statement that youths were committing suicide by attacking army camps. “Then one of your leaders tried to take back the statement. What was this?” he asked.

“You made the life of that minor Handwara girl hell,” he told the CM, “your own Women’s Commission Chairperson said that the issue is serious and CM is herself monitoring the situation.”

“But what did you do? Humiliated the family, and the police,” he observed, “we want to know what the truth was behind the issue.”

“It was ironic that governor spoke about women empowerment during your government,” Omar further said addressing CM Ms Mufti, “how can they feel empowered when they are scared to move out.”

Seeking answers from the government, he told the Chief Minister, “You can’t hide behind your spokesperson every time who is not even elected.” “You are answerable because you have been voted to power.”

“You are speaking one language that the victim family was given protection; girl is saying something else that they were detained,” Omar said, “why was police protection given to family because you shared the video and made it impossible for the girl to live a normal life.”

Omar said that the government has demeaned the J&K Police department. “Aap nay police ko zaleel kiya,” he told the CM, “they die for us but now the statement of girl has belittled the Kupwara SP and JKP.”

“What is the truth, we want to know,” he said. “You are the Home Minister and you will have to speak and defend JKP if they are right.”

‘Battle Of Ideas’

Ridiculing Mehbooba of “doing same what was being done in his own tenure”, Omar said that PDP talked of “battle of Ideas”, “but where are the ideas?” “There is only battle,” he said referring to detention of separatist leadership on Thusrady in view of the strike call. “How many did you get arrested to make the strike fail,” he asked CM.

“Why should you talk of Ideas now when Union government is not taking you in to confidence,” he told the house. “They speak in one language and J&K government in another.”

He said that Union Home Minister took two review meetings about J&K but the Ms Mehbooba led government was absent. “Governor was presented one meeting and there was none in second meeting. Is it the Agenda of Alliance?”

Opposition Lawmakers led by NC created din in Assembly on May 27, 2016

New Industrial Policy

Asking PDP-BJP government to stick to the point made by MLA Javaid Baig as “leading the public not the other way around”, he said that it took Mehbooba led government only twenty four hours to take the new Industrial Policy. “If your Madam (CM) is the leader and is leading people towards prosperity and development, then  why did you reverted on Industrial Policy issue?”

Sainik Colony Issue

Omar Abdullah charged PDP led government of creating misconception over the “Sainik Colony” issue.

“There is no clarity on the issue,” he told the house, “you have that it was me who created the issue as former CM but it is you who have issued order for the identification of the land for the Sainik Colony.” “My worry is how will you save the State Subject Law by transferring J&K land to non-state subjects,” he said.

“We were not against the establishment of the Sainik Colony,” he asserted. “I had asked you to file FIR if my tweet was wrong but you said I am putting state on fire.”

“Yes, I attending the meeting and it must have in the agenda but it comes from Raj Bhawan,” he said.

‘Give me Credit’

Asking Mehbooba led government to give credit to him for the work done by his government, Omar told the CM, “you inaugurated Zero Bridge and tomorrow it will be TRC etc etc. Give me credit for that but you have been only alleging wrongs with me.” To this, Ms Mehbooba smiled and was seen looking towards PWD minister, AR Veeri.

Colonies for Migrant Kashmiri Pandits

“We don’t’ want ghettos,” Omar said, “where is the land identified for the townships. We are for honourable return of KPs but to their respective ancestral places.”

Kashmir Issue Resolution

Omar said that he doesn’t expect any breakthrough on India-Pakistani dialogue. “You would not stop singing Na Bandook Say Na Goli Say…. Baat Banay Gi Boli Say; but which Boli?” he asked Mehbooba. “You are now yourself getting them (separatists) arrested.”

“And why should I expect anything from you when PM Narendra Modi himself declared that he doesn’t need any advice on Kashmir from anyone,” he said.

“Since NDA government came in power in Delhi, the Nepal route was closed,” he said, “we made 350 militants return from Nepal and no one amongst them has re-joined it.” “But you can’t even get a single one back,” he told Mehbooba. “Nepal route is illegal but did you open any new road?”

“This Banking issue (Cross LoC) is a proposal which came up during my tenure as well but Pakistan did not agree and you are taking credit for it,” he said adding that “there was nothing in much touted proposal”.

Asking Mehbooba to open up a talk, he said, “whenever media asks you for the interview, your reply is childish: abhi to bus che (6) maheenay hi huway hai; what is this?

‘Time Flees Fast’

Suggesting his successor to work apace time, Omar revived his oath taking days when he joined J&K Government as its youngest CM in 2009.

“Time flees fast,” he told the first woman CM, “I vividly remember how I took oath in that auditorium and Sonia Ji was present on the occasion.”

“Take one step and if you need me, I will be by your side; my team will be with you,” he told the treasury benches, “but don’t accuse me of putting J&K state on fire.”

Omar almost spoke for 35 minutes and the longest one as Leader of Opposition in J&K Legislative Assembly, so far.

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