Will Omar Trigger A Storm?

Bilal Handoo



J&K State Assembly has four ex-chief secretaries serving as law makers.
Omar Abdullah

In the brief autumn session, all eyes are on Omar Abdullah, state’s principal opposition leader. With the ruling coalition caught in controversies, will Omar Abdullah corner the coalition?

Omar was brief in the obituary references. He said whatever the Speaker said is enough and does not require any addition. He barely spoke for a few minutes and he was the only person from NC to speak. Is he preserving his energy for the remaining few days?

Omar, who shot to prime with his fiery speech in Lok Sabha, is an articulate speaker, a quality that an opposition leader requires. His high-octane speech—“I am a Muslim and I am an Indian” delivered during Amarnath land row made BJP to create ruckus in Lok Sabha.

On Monday, he will be locking horns with BJP once again. As an opposition leader, Omar is expected to flip his party’s beleaguered image that was badly dented during NC’s previous power term. But before actual war of words, Omar seems seething over Speaker Kavinder Gupta, the BJP man’s recent remarks. With Gupta terming bills for scrapping beef ban as source of trouble, Omar trained his guns at him on twitter, saying, “Shame on him. He’s supposed to be the custodian of the House & rise above petty politics.”

Kashmir’s former chief minister is a maestro when it comes to making use of social media. His Twitter fan base has already crossed a million, making most of his tweets a front page content. And his debut of the popular micro-blogging site was specially reported by Wall Street Journal.

But then, handling House is entirely a different ball game than a twitter handle. Previously he was seen as a boring man sitting on the treasury bench along with his cabinet. The old equations have changed now.  So are the pulls and pressures. And therefore, one might see Omar going with all his guns.

National Conference has already moved an anti-beef ban Bill with the Assembly secretariat seeking omission of Sections 298-A, 298-B, 298-C and 298-D of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC). And NC’s General Secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar has already hinted that J&K is full of issues and “we are not going to shut our mouths in the Assembly”.

To mobilise his 15 MLAs, Omar already briefed them on a strategy: how to make the government accountable. “People still remember that PDP sought votes against BJP,” Sagar said. “Then, what caused them to ally with the party that has a communal agenda? We would surely like to seek answers from the government on this.”

While it will be interesting to see whether or not the government will be answering all the questions, Omar’s role as opposition leader will be under close watch. After losing power, even his detractors had said: “Omar will be the best opposition leader of the state.” Behind this belief is Omar’s natural ability to question everything—the ability he seriously lacked when he was in power. Besides confidence, Omar seems to get his venom back out of power.

As the ruler, his record remained chequered. He didn’t make any secret of that. In last winter, he was briefing his last press conference as the chief minister, he was candid to assert: “Given the fact that they (PDP) campaigned on three issues against us – the summer agitation (2010), Afzal Guru hanging and recent floods, Mufti should not be calculating (right now) 44 seats only. Had these issues been with me, I would have crossed 50.” No wonder Omar was smiling when the last ballot was put to count.

Those smiles continue to enrage PDP that went on to accuse him of derailing government formation efforts. Like an astute politician, he then played a masterstroke by offering a ‘no love-lost hug’ to his archrival, PDP. He shortly dispatched a letter to Raj Bhawan extending unconditional support to PDP to keep BJP at bay. Later it was clear that Omar was only playing mind games, he eventually won.

The fact is, he never wanted to stay in power. He needed a cooling period to restore the reputation of his ‘party of plough’ due to his power mishandling. He asserted the same in his recent tweet: “We happily accepted being in opposition from day one…”

And now, the UK-born Omar who became the youngest union minister in 2001 and youngest chief minister in 2008 must be eyeing to rage a storm in the House. As the opposition leader, he has already revealed his cards: “Why should I make life easier for other parties?”


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