Prof Saifud Din Soz

Ever since he was sent home as president of the state Congress Prof Saif-Ud-Din Soz stuck to his ‘gentleman’ image. Fighting divisions within and managing a working relationship with the government, Soz always smiled things away. But last week, he turned tables on chief minister Omar Abdullah and all of a sudden became the ‘headmaster’ of the coalition creating a situation to prevent the government keep its promise of pruning the application of AFSPA in the state.

“He (Omar) must understand, he is not the only important actor,” Soz said, reacting angrily to Omar’s decision of reviewing AFSPA before the durbar moves to Jammu. “I wish he had consulted around, then he would be on a stronger footing. Today he is not on a strong footing because he has not done the consultation exercise fully. I am not so sure that, before Darbar move, he can remove AFSPA.”

Soz said there are many players including the MHA, Defence Ministry, and Congress that require to be taken in confidence. “There is no game in the world where you can score a goal all by yourself…you have to have a team,” he said.

After ensuring that the AFSPA review is halted, at least for the time being, Soz started attacking Omar using other issues. Now, he wants the CM to decide early about the fate of seven BJP lawmakers whose suspension the party has recommended to the Speaker of the state legislature. The demand is aimed at holding a by-poll on these seats so that Congress cannibalizes them and emerge as the largest party in the house. That will add weight to its claim that it has everything to lead the coalition.

For the first time, Soz reacted to the controversy over the death in custody of Haji Yusuf. He said his party stands for truth. “If there is a judicial inquiry (into the allegations involving chief minister) and the Supreme Court is not in agreement over any sitting judge or a visiting judge of the panel. This inquiry will lose sheen…will lose its purpose,” Soz said.

It is clear that Soz has his own problems with the NC, the party that he belonged to till he went against the party whip and cast a vote against Vajpayee. That was the end of his career in the NC. Though initially Soz was keen to have his own party, he eventually landed in Congress.

But Soz’s tough talking on the AFSPA helped him score a point and add to the credibility crisis of a beleaguered chief minister. But unfortunately for Soz, his tough talking is taking him slightly away from Kashmir, the base that could fetch him the leadership of the coalition, if high command permits. Whether or not Omar Abdullah invoked the AFSPA review for diverting the attention from the crisis that PDP believes he is neck-deep in or play to the galleries as Soz alleges, the people here believe that it is high time to bid adieu to all the black laws.

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