Omar Abdullah

The scion of the Abdullah family and the state’s youngest ever chief minister, Omar Abdullah, completed a tumultuous three years in power this week. In 2009, on the eve of the New Year, Abdullah III came to power with fanfare and escalating hopes.

Projected as young and dynamic, Omar was preferred over his father, Farooq Abdullah, by the Congress high command. After the 2008 agitation on the controversial Amarnath land acquisition and its subsequent revocation, Omar had become a poster boy, both within and outside J&K for his flamboyant speech in Parliament in support of Congress for passing the nuclear bill. He accused BJP of communal politics and said Kashmiris will die but won’t let anyone snatch even an inch of land.

Abdullah in fact further raised hopes of the people of the state, soon after he took over as J&K chief executive, by managing to shift Bomai garrison after soldiers killed two youth. But this fanfare soon came to an end when in May 2009, Abdullah failed to handle the mysterious death of two Shopian women. At the time, coalition government had not completed even six months in office.  And it did not stop there. Come 2010 and the 41-year-old chief minister had to face another tough term when more than 112 civilians, mostly youth were killed.

Even in the ‘peaceful 2011’ Omar remained embroiled in controversies. First it was the death of NC worker, Haji Yousuf, whom he summoned for settling a bribes issue, in police custody. The flames of the custodial killing had not yet doused when Abdullah put himself in trouble again with the army by announcing the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from few ‘peaceful’ districts. Army’s stiff opposition did not allow Abdullah to do so, but Omar remains unchanged publicly. Omar’s half time in government was marked by the killing of a poor student by CISF in Boniyar.

However, having an optimistic view at the end of his half way mark of a six-year term in government, Abdullah deserves credit for a few things. He managed to pass the Public Services Guarantee Bill, appointed the first chief information officer, held panchayat elections and approved the transfer of powers to panchayats. But Abdullah’s biggest feat is perhaps that despite the odds and tumultuous times, he managed support from Congress, especially the high command. Abdullah faced many b?te noire within the state Congress’, who aspired to replace him but he obviously had the last laugh.

After gaining full assurance and clear support for the remaining half time and passing of a relatively peaceful 2011, Omar now needs to move his attention toward the development front, as the infrastructure and other basic facilities, which are most primitive, need to be provided on a war footing basis. Can we have chief minister’s attention, please?  

 – Inam-ul-Haq

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