India Insight

Omar Abdullah: a successful year in office?

Omar Abdullah, the youngest ever chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, completed a year in office on January 5.

Omar AbdullahThe administration, youth and people of the state had huge expectations from Abdullah after the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference formed a coalition government with the Congress party last year.

“When he came into people, he wanted to prove himself as an excellent leader, but looking down a year that hope is slowly but surely diminishing because nothing concrete is happening on the ground,” says Raja Muneeb, a local resident of Srinagar.

From the Shopian deaths to his name coming up in a sex scandal, the past year has not been a smooth ride for Omar Abdullah.

“We have learned lessons from our mistakes. If we don’t learn lessons, then we will repeat those mistakes. I don’t want to forget anything but will learn lessons from them,” the 39-year-old Abdullah was quoted as saying.

After wooing voters, Mamata charms Bengal Inc

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee rolls on with a bagful of bounty for one and all in West Bengal, even as the state’s corporate big wheels close ranks with her.Her eyes all set on the 2011 assembly elections, Banerjee shed the image of an anti-industry politician, using to the hilt the resources the world’s largest employer (Indian Railways) could offer.The industry-basher epithet stuck thick on Mamata after Tata Motors made an angry exit from Singur last year, bowing before a wave of protests over 400 acres of farmland acquired forcibly by the communist state government for the Nano plant.Just when a section of people and political pundits had written her off, Mamata’s gamble with the land movement and the state’s poor human rights record paid off.Now in a hurry to catch the 2011 train, Mamata (referred to in local media as chief minister-in-waiting) has impressed industrialists with her impatience to fast-track projects in West Bengal.She is now offering land to set up factories, emphasizing on setting up Public Private Partnership (PPP) models to develop the infrastructure of railway and industry.”Mamata means business” wrote The Telegraph after her August 21 meeting with industrialists. The largest circulated English daily from eastern India had less than a year ago written against the Trinamool Congress chief for driving out the Tatas from Singur.Mamata’s meeting was a durbar of sorts as she addressed members of the country’s three leading chambers of commerce and urged industrialists to set up shop on available railway land.”I urge you all to take the opportunity and use the land available to set up industry,” she told industrialists, chanting her slogan of Ma, Mati and Manush (Mother, Soil and People).Mamata said the railways had already prepared a land bank and about 112,000 acres are available.With her popular railway budget and various initiatives, the ghosts of Singur seemed to have been exorcised. Mamata said land disputes can be avoided with proper planning and human approach.The meeting, which has been organised by the Railways, cleared any doubts about her anti-industry posturing in the past.For now it is brand Mamata that rules Bengal as excitement builds up in the run-up to her big show in 2011.

Superstar Chiranjeevi turns politician. Finally.

The Telugu actor launched his Praja Rajyam (People’s Rule) party this week, the latest in a long line of bigwigs from the acting fraternity in south India to nurse political ambitions.

Actor ChiranjeeviChiranjeevi, 53, is in good company. M.G. Ramachandran, N.T. Rama Rao, J. Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi had all successfully made the leap from silver screen to political stage.

And with assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh looming in 2009, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Chiranjeevi seated on the chief minister’s chair.

He’s surely got mass appeal. Local television broadcast footage of tens of thousands of supporters hailing the actor at his party’s launch in the temple town of Tirupati.

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