The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Autonomy gun turned on CM

Srinagar, Nov. 6 (PTI): The National Conference fired its first salvo against the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led government in Jammu and Kashmir, accusing it of throwing the autonomy issue in the backburner.

“The issue of autonomy does not figure anywhere in the common minimum programme adopted by the coalition partners despite the fact that the previous Assembly had adopted a resolution on this,” party president and Union minister Omar Abdullah said.

Dismissing reports that autonomy was only an election plank and had never been pursued seriously, Omar said his party had raised the issue during the 1996 elections and submitted a “good and well-drafted proposal” before the Assembly which adopted a resolution to this effect.

The National Conference chief said his party was unnecessarily blamed when the previous state government had submitted a resolution only in 2000.

On whether he held the Centre responsible for delaying action on it, Omar said: “We are not here for the blame game but definitely there was a delay on the part of the Centre.”

Omar said he was surprised that the CPM, which is a partner in the state’s ruling alliance, had also chosen to remain silent despite the fact that it had supported the resolution.

On reasons behind the poll debacle, the National Conference president said: “We are definitely analysing the situation but one thing is for sure that we were not able to highlight the achievements of our government properly.”

He claimed that the previous state government had been able to generate 1.5 lakh jobs in the last six years but this “fact has not reached all the ears in the state”.

Replying to a question on the alleged atrocities committed by the special operations group (SOG), Omar said: “During my election campaign, I had promised to give a new face to this anti-militancy group while PDP (People’s Democratic Party) had been saying that they would disband it.”

“Now, whose stand stands vindicated' After all, now Sayeed is also saying that the SOG will be given a new face and is refraining from using the word disband,” Omar said.

Asked whether corruption at high level was also a factor responsible for the defeat of his party, Omar said: “You name a state where corruption does not exist. This state is no different from others, but the problem was that here, the menace was exploited to the hilt. If a peon is corrupt, that does not mean that Farooq Abdullah is corrupt.”

“There were instances where corrupt officers were booked by the state government,” he added.

Omar pointed out that initial misuse of the anti-terrorism Ordinance had also proved counter-productive for the government.

Asked if the party had to pay for aligning with the Centre, Omar said: “We joined the Centre for representing the state’s voice in Delhi, but the Opposition projected it as if we were Delhi’s voice in the state.”

He said the National Conference had also promised to bring forward a lok pal legislation that the coalition government had now started terming as the ethisab (accountability) bureau.

“The Opposition parties have been accusing us of all misdeeds but now I would like to see how they function,” Omar said.

Assuring supporters that his party would give a healthy opposition to the new government, he said: “We will support all the moves aimed at bringing relief to the people.”

About the party’s future course of action, Omar said: “We will have to reach to the masses again. We may be down but we are not out and we aspire to romp home again.”

He said his party would be soon meeting in Jammu to elect the new legislative party leader.

Asked about reports suggesting disgruntlement in his party, Omar said: “There is no such thing as we go together hand-in-hand. Only time will tell whose party is weak and susceptible to defections and splits. We are solid like a rock.”

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