In Kashmir, it is not easy to manage the coalition applecart. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who was known as upright and clean, has learnt this lesson hard way. The enemy from within and outside has, on many occasions, forced him to compromise politically.
In politics, no favour can be unilateral. One must return it and so does Omar. In November last year, when he was under sustained pressure from the coalition partner Congress over the amendments in the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), political analysts were surprised when he received support from a senior Congress minister, Taj Mohiuddin—who is the Minister for Water Resources in his cabinet. To allay concerns on the issue of revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Omar had said his government was ready to give legal protection to the Army by amending the RPC and making it on par with the Criminal Procedure Code. While there was opposition from the Congress and other parties, Mohiuddin defended Omar, saying “If time has come to amend the Criminal Procedure Code, it should be amended. What’s the big thing about it?” That not the only occasion when Mohiuddin has come to Omar’s rescue; on several occasions when the Congress has openly pressured National Conference (NC) over the issue of rotational chief ministers, Mohiuddin stood against the move, much to the dismay of senior Congress leaders in the state and at the Centre. Inevitably such favours had to be returned.
After a legislative panel was set to probe allegation of forest land grab against Mohiuddin, the NC actively worked to scuttle it. And, recently, it successfully did so, though the NC on other occasions had dealt with Congress ministers involved in graft or misuse of position.
The plan was simple: NC pulled out its two legislators from the panel which was followed by Congress members withdrawing from the panel, thus leaving it in a minority. Pertinently, both parties gave no explanation for the pull-out. And with just two out of the five nominated members—main Opposition Peoples Democratic Party’s Murtaza Khan (Chairman) and Panther’s Party’s Syed Rafiq Shah—holding on, the panel was dissolved.
Congress leader R S Chib—the Medical Education Minister and considered close to Mohiuddin—wrote to Legislative Council Chairman Amrit Malhotra, asking him to quash the committee after raising doubts over its legality and also the membership of Shah.
However, Malhotra defended his decision to constitute the committee. Mohiuddin had himself written four letters to Legislative Assembly Speaker Muhammad Akbar and Malhotra to get the House Committee quashed. But Malhotra put his foot down.