Monday, August 11, 2008

Power & Politics / Mail Today, August 11, 2008

THERE are somethings that you can’ttake away from theAbdullahs, both fatherand son. Qualities likeunquestioned nationalism,unwavering loyalty andtheir fetish for political theatrics.
The first is somethingthey have inherited, the secondthey have imbibed in recenttimes.
What’s happening in Jammu & Kashmiris shameful, to put it mildly. Lastweek, Abdullah pere roared, “DoesFarooq Abdullah need a passport to goto Jammu?” Just two weeks earlier,Omar had made a passionate speech inParliament where he defended the revocationof the Amarnath Shrine land,saying, “It is an issue of our land, wefought for it and will continue to fightfor it till we die”. The statements mirrorthe conflicts between the nationalistand the politician. There was a timewhen people would have looked up toFarooq, a proud Indian, for the rightanswers. Because he was known tostand between the ordinary people ofKashmir and terrorists. They didn’tquite call him The Wall. But he was.
Don’t forget that successive governmentsat the Centre, whatever theirpolitical colour, had picked him out torepresent the country and take onIndia baiters at various internationalforums, a job he did with unmatchedpanache. And his National Conferencewas the only party that wonseats in all parts of the state includingthe Jammu region. Today, Farooq’ssole objective isto win elections,and in theprocess thatnationalist witha higher sense ofKashmiriyat hasvanished. Whateverhappenedto the master ofthe middleground?Steeped in theworst kind ofcompetitive politics,he hasended up supportinghis arch rival Mehbooba Muftisinging Governor NN Vohra’s praisedespite the fact that it was his orderrevoking a Cabinet decision that hasbrought the state to such a dreadfulpass, leaving the UPA scratching itshead to find out where things wentwrong.
Farooq’s unstinted support to theGovernor is somewhat ironic becausehe has had a history of skirmisheswith governors in the past. Twicewith Jagmohan: first when the governorsacked him; later, as a protestagainst the VP Singh government’sdecision to reappoint Jagmohan asgovernor, Farooq actually quit. Now joined hands with a governorwhose actions have doneimmense damage to the verycause that they have alwaysstood for. In New Delhi’s chatteraticircles where the Abdullahsare a permanent fixture,they are of late having troublefending off questions abouttheir recent stance.
Their friends feel let down,having expected them totread the middle path andcome up with solutions thatwould be acceptable to bothsides. For unlike Vohra whohas no local stakes and willcomplete his assignment andreturn to Delhi to live underthe protection of Black Cats,the Abdullahs’ future is linkedto that of Kashmir. It’s inexplicablethat they have chosen tojoin the fringe parties. In doingso, they have shrunk themselves.
Once their appeal waspan-Indian. I hope it won’thappen but the day may not befar off when they fail to matteranywhere except the 100-oddsquare kilometres that is Srinagar.

What a fall!
WILL the real Kamal Nath please stand up? The CommerceMinister, who owns resorts and runs a helicopter charterservice, is known to be more at home with the Page-3 population.
He has suddenly turned farmer- friendly and his greatexertions have even got him into The New York Timesand TheEconomistas the man who derailed the Geneva round of theDoha talks. Though never involved in the task of musteringsupport for either the nuclear deal or the trust vote, he flewback to Delhi to vote for the trust motion and got back in timeto stall the pact. His reasoning: “I am all for commerce, butabsolutely against depriving anyone of livelihood security”.It is a line that his spin doctors will find useful since a vacancyfor the Madhya Pradesh chief minister’s job is due to comeup in a few months’ time and he may finally have found theright plank.

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