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Omar lobs split threat

Jan. 28: Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling alliance is facing its deepest crisis yet with Omar Abdullah threatening to snap ties with the Congress if it does not agree to his demand for creating administrative units in the state soon.

The chief minister, who is facing anti-incumbency ahead of the October-November state elections and the Lok Sabha poll, proposes to create 955 administrative units that will cost the state Rs 800 crore annually. The Congress is worried by the financial implications and fears Jammu may feel discriminated against.

National Conference sources in Srinagar suggested the Congress was opposing the proposal lest it gives Omar an advantage in the elections. A leader said his party was ready “to sacrifice the government” if the Congress continued to oppose creation of the units.

“One way would be to go ahead with the announcement of the creation of new units,” he said, implying it might trigger the break-up.

Omar, who is camping in Delhi, yesterday held a three-hour meeting with Ambika Soni, the Congress general secretary in charge of Jammu and Kashmir. Senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and state unit chief Saifuddin Soz also attended the meeting.

Omar later met Sonia Gandhi for around 30 minutes and told her that continuing the alliance would be difficult unless his demands — which includes a fresh probe into the Pathribal encounter — were met. He apparently said he was ready to step down.

The Congress has summoned Kashmir leaders, including deputy chief minister Tara Chand, for talks.

Trouble has been brewing since Omar announced the proposal at the end of last year. After the Congress expressed its reservations, Omar was forced to form a cabinet sub-committee that would tour the state and assess the proposal.

Sources said Omar had assured the Congress that justice would be done to all three regions — Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. But he rued the sub-committee had not submitted its report and set it a January 31 deadline.