The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Omar quits, Atal waits

New Delhi, Oct. 14: Minister of state for external affairs Omar Abdullah today put in his papers after meeting Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Official sources, however, said the Prime Minister is unlikely to take a hasty decision on accepting the resignation.

In his half-hour meeting with Vajpayee, Omar, who suffered a defeat in the Jammu and Kashmir election, made two things clear. His party, the National Conference, will remain with the National Democratic Alliance and the NC will continue to be part of the government.

Omar’s second assurance has become the subject of speculation. Official quarters were left wondering what he meant. Would his father, Farooq Abdullah, who resigned as chief minister, replace him at the Centre or would the NC send a new representative' Or was Omar giving Vajpayee space to persuade him to continue as minister'

Official sources said Vajpayee, before taking any decision, would consult his Cabinet colleagues as well as the BJP brass, given the fact that the acrimony between the NC and the BJP state unit was one of the main reasons for the BJP’s rout in the Assembly elections.

The sources were, however, not sure if Farooq’s shift to the Centre would be easy. First, he would require a weighty portfolio and, second, he would have to get himself elected to either House within six months of becoming a minister.

They explained that there will be no vacancies in the Rajya Sabha until 2004 unless a current NC member is asked to give up his seat. They said it seemed unlikely that Farooq would risk contesting a Lok Sabha byelection within months of the NC’s bad performance and, more important, because of the decisive rejection of the Abdullah family by the electorate.

As for whether Omar would be asked to stay on, the sources explained Vajpayee’s dilemma. “First of all, everything depends on what signals the NC gives. Given the fact that the BJP’s Jammu and Kashmir unit is opposed tooth and nail to the NC, Vajpayee cannot take a unilateral decision. On the other hand, Omar is a good face to have at the Centre, especially in the ministry of external affairs.

“We don’t have another representative from Kashmir. The ideal situation will be a Congress-PDP government in the state and an NC minister at the Centre,” said a source.

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