The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Omar gloats as opponents grope

Srinagar, Oct. 16: The National Conference is having the last laugh. The heady excitement over throwing out the NC has fast fizzled out as the Congress and People’s Democratic Party have so far failed to cobble together a coalition to replace the Farooq Abdullah regime.

Privately the NC is gloating but, so far, it has not made any public statements about the current political uncertainty in the state. “This is the time to wait and watch,” said a party insider.

Party president Omar Abdullah added his one liner to keep his opponents guessing. “We are not ruling out anything,’’ he said at his office in Farooq Abdullah’s heavily guarded home. “We are neither keen nor will we shrug any responsibility thrust upon us,’’ he hinted. “But it is up to the Congress and the PDP to form the government and give Kashmir a stable government.’’

“Otherwise, they will have to answer to the people who gave a joint mandate to the Congress and the PDP,’’ Abdullah said.

When two parties like the Congress and the PDP get together with a one-point agenda of ousting the National Conference, what else can one expect, said the NC chief, commenting on the inability of the two political entities to form a government. They got together on a single-point agenda of removing the NC from power, without agreeing on anything else, he added.

Abdullah said now the Congress must be ruing its decision not to field candidates in six seats in the Valley to allow the PDP to win. The Congress stand is that the NC would have slipped through in all the six constituencies if the non-NC vote got divided. The Congress also did not field nominees against the two CPM candidates who won.

Despite rumours circulating in the city for the last two days that Farooq Abdullah was making a bid to form the government, party insiders said there was no such move. Although the NC still remains the largest single party with 28 MLAs, it is aware that the popular mood is against the party. “It would be suicidal to make a bid now. We need to stay away for sometime,” an NC source said.

Like most analysts in Kashmir, the NC thinks that the state is heading for a period of Governor’s rule. The fact that the Abdullahs still matter was evident from the large number of people who had come from different parts of the state to meet the father and son. Omar Abdullah’s office was crowded with visitors, mostly sympathisers from the constituencies.

This has been happening from day one, an aide of the party president said. “They come basically to express their loyalty. To say ‘we are with you’,’’ the aide explained. Abdullah spends most of the day meeting supporters. There is obviously much affection among this section for the duo. An elderly burqa-clad supporter took the hand Abdullah had extended to greet her, and planted a soppy kiss.

Upset about a picture printed in a Delhi daily showing his office deserted, the NC chief was obviously happy to see it crowded today.

For the time being, there are no major plans to revamp the party. “This is no time for surgery,” a party source said. The party’s effort now is to keep its flock together and try to woo back several of the party’s rebels who stood as Independents.

The NC denied all rumours that a chunk of the party was planning to break away from the father and son and extend support to the PDP. “You think this will ever happen and we will sit down and watch'” Abdullah wanted to know.

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