National Conference patron and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah has dismissed as baseless speculation that he would take over as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, saying incumbent Omar Abdullah has the backing of the entire country.
“It (suggestions that I want to become J &K CM) is totally wrong and baseless. I want to make it very clear that there is no such thing. He (Omar) is the Chief Minister and he has the backing of the entire country,” he told Karan Thapar on Devil’s Advocate programme.
The Central government, he said, was standing firmly behind the Omar Abdullah government and he had never received such support from the Centre during his term as chief minister.
On the recent eruption of violence and street protests in Jammu and Kashmir, he said the process had “started moving towards normalisation but I would not say that we are over the hump yet.”
Not ruling out the possibilities of such protests erupting again in future, the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said if proper steps are taken by the government, there were chances that the situation “would not blow in a manner it did recently.”
Asked if the “anger and defiance” among the people had disappeared, Mr. Abdullah said, “I would say that it has mellowed down and simmered down.”
On measures for calming the situation in the State, the Union Minister stressed on the need for “tightening” administration and said, “I think he (Omar) should follow the path that is there very clearly. He must give responsibilities and those who don’t fulfil should be shown the door.”
On the cause of anger among people, he said after holding elections in 1996, 2002 and 2008, the government was in a “euphoria” that everything was fine but “it is not so”.
“Problem is still there. We have to continuously talk not only to the country (Pakistan) but also to the people in our own State who may not agree with the present dispensation,” the Union Minister said.
He said groups such as the Hurriyat have to be “rolled in” for betterment of people in the State.
Asked if people in Kashmir were feeling let down by the politicians in the State, Mr. Abdullah said, “They feel so. But it may not have been done with a purpose.”
He noted that a part of the local youth felt “alienated” and some of them were being “used”.
Asked if terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba were also involved in the protests, Mr. Abdullah said, “All sorts of forces were working there but there are people who are being paid money to throw stones.”
He said the resolution of the Kashmir issue was foremost priority for the Central government and several major steps were in the offing in this direction.
Asked if the Central government was aware of the alienation among people, Mr. Abdullah said these issues were discussed in the recent all-party meeting and they would be raised when all the parties come to Delhi to talk to the Prime Minister.
Mr. Abdullah also attacked Army Chief General V. K. Singh over his critical remarks on the Jammu and Kashmir government, saying he should not make “political statements” and “keep silent”.
“I think the Army chief should not make statements. He is there to keep silent and his job is to keep the Army alert and ready. He is not there to make political statements,” he said.
The former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister was asked to react on Army Chief’s comments that the basic reason behind the flare-up in Kashmir was the failure to build-up on the gains made in the State.
Pointing out that political statements should come from politicians, who can answer the people in State assemblies and the Parliament, he said, “I am totally against any army chief or police chief making political statements.”