The Congress on Thursday intervened to end the war of words between its Jammu and Kashmir unit and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Senior party functionary in charge of the State Mohan Prakash said the question of whether the Disturbed Areas Act should be withdrawn from some districts — paving the way for the removal of the AFSPA from those parts — should be left to the Union Home Ministry, the Army, the security forces and intelligence agencies.
Responding to a statement made by State unit chief Saifuddin Soz that Mr. Abdullah should consult his coalition partner before taking any decision on the issue, Mr. Prakash said, “It would be better to leave this decision to the Union Home Ministry and various agencies — the security forces, the Army and intelligence agencies.” He, however, noted that there was also “need for better coordination between the coalition partners” (the National Conference and the Congress).
On Thursday, Mr. Soz said the AFSPA “would end only when militancy ends,” stressing that “the Chief Minister had not consulted the Congress, its coalition partner, before announcing his plan to withdraw the AFSPA from select areas.” To which, Mr. Abdullah pointed out that Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram “had been kept in the loop” and, if need be, a meeting of the coordination committee could be called by Mr. Soz, who heads it.
Mr. Soz's criticism of the Chief Minister follows a similar statement by another senior State Congress leader Ashok Bhan on October 23. Speaking at a seminar here, he accused Mr. Abdullah of wanting to “appease the radical political elements in the State and their masters, to cover up his political and administrative incompetence and to weaken the growing political base of the Congress across the State.”
This round of words between the coalition partners comes even as the Congress continues to press the NC on the revolving Chief Minister issue — it wants Mr. Abdullah to step down and allow the Congress to head the coalition for the remainder of the tenure.