JAMMU (TIP): The ruling National Conference (NC)- Congress alliance in Jammu and Kashmir is in big trouble, with credible reports that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah may step down following sharp differences over the creation of new administrative units.
The alliance may collapse like a house of cards, a big shift from the permanent alliance theory floated for the past over five years. “I don’t want to say anything,” is all Omar Abdullah persistently said, when contacted. Though he refused to comment on the situation that had arisen following the fierce stand taken by the Congress and the National Conference on the issue, a reliable source said “anything is possible”.
“There is trouble (between the NC and the Congress over the creation of new administrative units),” a highly-placed source privy to behind-the-scene developments told The Tribune on Tuesday evening following hectic confabulations in Srinagar and New Delhi. “Anything can happen,” he said when asked whether or not the Chief Minister would step down. On January 24, Omar had made it abundantly clear to the Congress members of the Cabinet Sub Committee (CSC) on the setting up of new administrative units that he would not step back.
“Either the Mushtaq Ganai Committee report will have to be adopted or the government will go,” Omar had said. The Ganai Committee had recommended the creation of over 900 new units, including 23 sub-divisions, 57 tehsils, 79 naibats and 773 patwar halqas, in a marked tilt in favour of the Valley. The report did not go down well with the Congress as it was hurting their bastion, the Jammu region. The Congress ministers alleged the report was biased and said a proper study must be done by interacting with the people of all districts.
The Cabinet Sub Committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand was constituted last June and was first asked to give its report by January 15. It could not start its work in time because of the firing in Gool and the communal violence in Kishtwar and was given subsequent extensions till January 24 and then till January 31. Omar had warned he would wait till January 31 and then implement the Mushtaq Ganai report even if he had to exit the government.
The Congress view is that an exercise of such a magnitude cannot be done in a hurry. The Congress wants nearly 3,000 new administrative units. The argument: it wants to strike a regional balance, which it alleged the report ignored. The National Conference wants the Congress to list out the loopholes in the report. If Omar resigns, he would be seen as a “political martyr” who sacrificed the chair for the sake of the people, since the new units were aimed at decentralising power centres and bringing the administration to the doorstep of the people.
The Congress line would be “it did not allow injustice to prevail”. Both sides appear to be playing vote bank politics in election year. The government’s fall would lead to Governor’s Rule in the state and the Assembly elections would then be held alongside the Parliamentary polls in April. Having sensed a Valley-centric tilt in the Ganai Committee report, the NC is pitching for its implementation as it has strong pockets in the Valley. The Congress seems to have seen through the NC game and feels the Ganai report is a political poison for the party in the Jammu and Ladakh regions.