Has Omar Abdullah taken on more than he can handle?

July 29, 2009

When Omar Abdullah took over as Kashmir’s youngest Chief Minister in January 2009, his coronation befitted a king.

Backed by a resurgent Congress party at the centre, 38-year-old Abdullah’s appointment was seen as a positive step towards bringing a fresh perspective to the troubled state’s political logjams.

That Abdullah came from a family of Kashmir’s best known politicians and was the third generation member to ascend to the post of CM made it imperative that he live up to the expectations of many who wanted an immediate solution to Jammu and Kashmir’s complex problems.

Born to a family that has witnessed political intrigue in the restive state for decades and had a history of alliances with the Congress, Abdullah was seen as the right candidate to a post many deemed as the ‘crown of thorns’.

Like all CMs before him, among the many problems he inherited, Abdullah needed to immediately address allegations of human rights violations, demands for repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, ensure better governance, maintain peace and stability in the region and continue dialogue with the separatists who boycotted elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

Political pundits predicted that Abdullah would make up in sincerity and hard work what he lacked in experience.

Abdullah’s first test of strength came with his handling of the rape and murder of two Muslim women in Kashmir’s Shopian district last month.

Abdullah came under heavy criticism from separatists and pro-freedom protestors, lying low since a record voter turnout during 2008 elections despite their boycott calls and threats of violence.

Residents said two women, aged 17 and 22, were abducted, raped and killed by security forces in Shopian town, 60 km south of Srinagar.

The daily street protests, strike calls, police firing on protestors and incidents of army shooting at civilians gave a new lease of life to separatists who rejected the findings of a judicial inquiry ordered by Abdullah after the Shopian incident.

Abdullah admitted that his government made a mistake in the handling of the Shopian crisis, which included allegations of delay in initial police action to ensure justice.

He said he was “misled” by some of his junior officials but learnt serious “lessons” from the incident.

Detractors see the candid admission and the subsequent damage control measures of suspending senior police officials as indication of earnestness but inexperience.

Faced with accusations by opposition People’s Democratic Party of involvement in a sex scandal that rocked the state in 2006, an emotional Abdullah took an impromptu decision to quit his post until his name was cleared.

Party workers, including his father and former CM Farooq Abdullah have advised calm in the face of a political storm brewing in the restive state. But many see Abdullah’s conditional resignation in the face of pressure as an indication of his youth and lack of experience.

As he completes his six months in office, Abdullah may need to face criticism with a cool head, keeping the welfare of his people in mind.

At 38, he is one of the youngest politicians with possibly one of the toughest jobs in Indian politics.

Besides being the chief minister, he has 20 portfolios under his belt, has to haggle with the central government for timely flow of development funds, contend with a vociferous opposition and worry about security issues in between walking a fine line on the question of Kashmir’s independence.

So is it that the grandson of Sheikh Abdullah, the Lion of Kashmir, has taken on more than he can handle? A classic case of biting off more than one can chew?

10 comments

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Omar Abdullah is irrelevant. He is not supported by Kashmiris. He is an puppet of Delhi and has no standing in the valley

http://rupeenews.com/2009/07/29/kashmir- sex-scandal-omar-abdullahs-prostitutes/

Good One

Posted by Sanjeev Bhagat | Report as abusive

This lady (Ms Mehbobba) is the most uncivilized leader I have ever seen. She behaves like a hooligan, disrupts the house proceeding and physically attacks people.

Govt should educate these people on civic norms.

Posted by Aaron | Report as abusive

That would depend on what can be seen as ‘success’ in the difficult circumstances described above. Just hanging in there could be seen as a ‘success’ especially given his willingness to resign almost on cue.

He is not young, just younger compared to others of his tribe. So to suggest, as some have, that he is cracking up because of his age is unfair as well as inaccurate.

But yes the grandson of Sher-e-Kashmir is also the son of Farooq Abdullah, and he runs a family firm/party, so we shall just have to wait and see which way the rookie crumbles.

Posted by vipul tripathi | Report as abusive

Many call it a sentimental decision, but why shudnt he take a sentimental decision? I’m sure any man of good moral character would have done so, probably even i would have done the same if i were in his place.. No doubt he hasnt done much or achieved much after he took over as the chief minister, we could surely give the poor guy a chance and space to breathe.

Posted by r | Report as abusive

what omar needs is some words of support. if he was not involved/not knew before, in the scandal he should not resign. separatists are just obstructors they will find a reason to cause disruption. if they didnt support election why would they support an elected chief minister.

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

@Moin Ansari:
@Omar Abdullah is irrelevant. He is not supported by Kashmiris. He is an puppet of Delhi and has no standing in the valley”
- Posted by Moin Ansari

Moin Ansari: CM Omar Abdullah is an elected leader and the election was fair with good turnout. Does that not mean the opposite of what you are saying?, meaning Omar has good standing in the valley and is supported by the Kashmiris? Are you used to the leaders who stands in the street and raise Pakistani flag and burn Indian flag raise anti-India slogans? The leader who cannot talk to Delhi is of zero value to kashmiris.

But tell me this: Where are you hiding the leader who you think has good standing with the Kashmiris? There exists no such leader. Omar is what Kashmiris chose so just suck it up. I see no logic in your allegations.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

…well, if one go through the history of J&K, it is much clear that New Delhi always preferred puppets on power. And when Omar’s grandpa tried to widen his wings, what Nehru did is history…!!
and about chewing the stuffs,.. even the teethless daddhus in seventies, eighties and even ninties are chewing it with so much ease, so give a chance for a youth with his 32 teeth…
…and the move what Omar did by resigning, is not an emotional step, but mere lesson for all those criminals, who still clings on the power, even after getting proved to be guilty…
Am not backing him, we need some young, active, unbiased, lead-through-example blood to clean up the carcass that corroded our democracy…
God bless India…

I do not think, he has taken on something he cannot handle. Of course he has toughest challenges to face as CM of J&M, however he is young, and he has got a vision for the people of the state.

It is true that he is overburdened by the responsibilities of various different portfolios under his belt, and for his humble political experience it is a daunting task to face the political storm and personal allegations. The current crisis is a test of character for him. When he said he was resigning, I think, he may have forgotten for a while that he was CM with big responsibilities and he should not have succumbed to the mounting pressure. It was the personal allegation hurt him most, and maybe he thought to stand for what he morally believes. So he should not have any regrets for having been emotionally given up for a while.

Posted by Pawan Khatawane | Report as abusive

I think Omar Singh Abdullah,has proved he is much better actor than his father.Father & son are puppets of Indian Govt.Good Oratory Skills doesn’t necessarily make a a good leader.The abdullah Family have always deceived kashmiri people.He showed his incapability during Shopian Case and the aftermath incidents.
Don’t expect any peace in the region till the issue of kashmir is not resolved.

Posted by S.Yousuf | Report as abusive