Saturday, 8 March 2014

There is a Modi ‘effect’ even in Jammu, says Omar Abdullah at India Today Conclave 2014

There is a Modi ‘effect’ even in Jammu, says Omar Abdullah at India Today Conclave 2014
India Today Online  New Delhi, March 8, 2014 | UPDATED 13:46 IST and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah lashed out at the Uttar Pradesh government for bringing sedition charges against Kashmiri students of a Meerut college who were expelled for cheering for the Pakistan cricket team.
Speaking at the session 'New Generation, New Poltics: Kashmir Looks Ahead' on the second day of the 13th India Today Conclave on Saturday, Abdullah said, "On the contrary, when our people go to Pakistan and they find their people cheering for our team, we actually feel good."
Maintaining that the issue should have been left at the expulsion and the government should not have brought sedition charges against the 68 students, Abdullah said, "My worry is that the BJP will now be using it as a poll issue. Those 67 Kashmiri students would now be used as pawn in the hands of politicians."
Sixty-eight Kashmiri students of Meerut's Swami Vivekanand Subharti University were charged with treason and sedition for cheering Pakistan's victory against India during the March 2 Asia Cup tie. The students' support for Pakistan had led to a clash in the university's hostel accompanied by violence. Catch all the live action here
Indian or Kashmiri?
Abdullah wondered why only Kashmiris and not people from any other state had to prove their patriotism.
"Why is it that when you come from J&K, you are asked if you are Indian or Kashmiri. Why? UP CM Akhilesh Yadav is not asked a similar question."
"My father kept telling people that he was an Indian. I asked him why he did that. He told me that he was advised by a former J&K Governor BK Nehru. I don't feel that need now."
Ruling out the possibility of his party's return to NDA, Abdullah said, "We were part of NDA because of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. We don't see anybody in the BJP coming even close to him. National Conference will not go back to NDA."
Asked what advise he would like to extend to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Abdullah said, "We certainly talk politics among us. But I am not among his advisors. But if I have to, my advice to him would be to not back off after that one interview with one TV channel."
On Narendra Modi wave
Asked if he saw any Narendra Modi 'wave' in the country, the J&K CM said, "I think we are overusing the term 'wave'. There is an effect. We saw it ourselves during his rally in Jammu. His rally there drew more crowds than we had expected."
Abdullah said, "That effect has invigorated his party cadre. But that is not a wave. A wave is something what former PM Rajiv Gandhi had in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984."
AFSPA has to go
On the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the J&K CM said that a legal cover should not misused as impunity.
While maintaining that the Armed Forces would definitely need a legal cover, he said the draconian part of the law has to go.
On relationship with Pakistan, he said, "I don't think India's ties with Pakistan is centered on Kashmir. It's the other way round. From our point of view, there are a host of other issues that need to be resolved other than Kashmir."
Abdullah said he would like to do more in terms of tourism, job creation, to ensure the return of Kashmiri Pandits and that more progress is made on (removal of) AFSPA, if he is re-elected. The Assembly elections in J&K are due towards the end of this year.
On the issue of ensuring that Kashmiri Pandits are back in the Valley, he said, "We have brought back 2,000 Kashmir Pandits. They are working in different sectors and living within the Valley. Though it is a very small number, but it is a beginning. We hope to do more on this front."
Relationship with father
On his relationship with his father and NC chief Farooq Abdullah, the CM said, "We are two individuals. We are totally different. But I have a good relationship with him though we are not the best of friends."
Speaking about his own personal journey, Omar said, "Every day of this job, one learns. No problem is small, it grows big. In my early days, I was dismissive of these small problems. The summer of 2010 (stone-throwing incident) was the most difficult time of my life."
On disconnect with J&K youth
Speaking about his disconnect with the Kashmiri youth, the CM said, "There is a disconnect. But I hope it is just an urban phenomenon."
Asked what he could do to set it right, he said, "I cannot change it in such a short time that is now left before we go to polls. If there is a disconnect, it has to be healed in a longer period of time."
On being asked what he would like to gift to the youth of Kashmir, Abdullah said, "I want to take away the uncertainty from the lives of young Kashmiris."
He added that though they are slowly beginning to see some normality, the situation is the Valley is still not normal. "It is closer to normality," he added.

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