Despite his repeated ‘not ready yet’ assertion, Rahul Gandhi quite enjoys his two minutes of fame! He just seems to love his episodic interventions that pitchfork him back again on the front page of national media.
Remember his ‘discovery’ of <i>Kalavati</i> during his journey of India. Not so long ago he delivered to the nation the self-proclaimed game changing idea in the vexed Lokpal debate to end corruption in the country.
At a time when he had almost turned reclusive post his party’s drubbing at assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, he has just staged a comeback riding piggyback on the vulnerable ‘sarpanchas’ from strife torn Kashmir Valley.
Gandhi raised the issue at the latest Congress Working Committee (CWC) and followed it up with a meeting with them here to espouse their cause seeking a greater mandate and greater security to discharge their duties as duly elected representatives of people.
There is nothing wrong with the cause except that the pitch turned Rahul Gandhi against the state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah thus escalating the strained nerves between the two coalition partners ruling the Valley.
The killings of two sarpanchas have shocked the Valley exposing the inherent gaps in the security framework. Given they were easy soft targets, the security lapse is undeniable. But rather than delving into preventing any such mishap in the future, the coalition partners have chosen to be at each other’s throat.
It is healthy to keep your partner under pressure but surely not advisable to exploit the killings for narrow political gains. There have been ugly episodes in the recent past involving both the partners (remember National Conference senior leader Mustafa Kamal’s diatribe against Congress and him rather getting away with it).
But the sarpanchas killings instance witnessed Congress read the riot act to National Conference when senior Congress leader and former Union minister Saifuddin Soz leaked to media the letter he wrote to the chief minister. “I wrote a letter to the Chief Minister. It is a strong and firm letter but it is a polite letter. Unless 73 Amendment is adopted, Panchayati Raj will remain weak in Kashmir. Omar Sahab should listen to my letter. It is good for health of Panchyati Raj,” Soz said talking to reporters, stoking further fire in the Valley at a time when gains out of a rather peaceful summer required consolidation rather than being sacrificed to gaining brownie points with the Congress party high command.
With Rahul joining the issue by hosting the angry sarpanchas in New Delhi, the state politics has turned a full circle. Congress, which has a history of betraying its partners in the state often using its dirty tricks department, has done it again.
What else would explain the dramatic turnabout in Rahul’s equation with Omar? "Kashmir is a tough and sensitive job. We should give Omar some time and support". That's how Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi described the Kashmir situation while addressing the media after concluding his visit to Bengal, on September 16, 2010.
Then too he spoke out of turn but his words signaled a rather unusual maturity from Congress central leadership in dealing with state politics. In an answer to a question on "trust-deficit" plaguing the Omar government, Rahul Gandhi said, "The government has supported Omar. He is the leader of National Conference and it is the NC's decision who runs Kashmir. Omar is a youngster and Kashmir is a difficult place. I think Omar is doing a tough job."
So what has changed in two years that Omar should not be allowed to run the state? The point is not to pardon young Abdullah for his indiscretion including his open challenge to terrorists to strike him. Kashmir is a graveyard of reputations and the chief minister ought to realize that actions speak louder than words. His promise to now look into security issues of sarpanchas negates his own political gains on account of local body elections that witnessed the highest turnout yet in Kashmir Valley.
The latest Kashmir killings only demonstrate the will at which terrorists can still strike in the Valley hence an undue discourse of troop reduction and withdrawal of the enabling laws empowering the security apparatus is highly undesirable.
Omar should stick to his core job of delivering good governance while as a mature coalition partner in Congress ought to lend a strong helping hand. The vested interests are ever so keen to Kashmir on the boil and a warring coalition environment makes the task of anti-India forces that much easier.
For India to serve its best interests in the Kashmir Valley, it is time for all national political parties to take a back seat and let local political flavour bloom. This would be the perfect foil for all moderate local political forces in the Valley to operate freely to ultimately help build politically a bigger and durable pro-India constituency.
Time, Soz and company, took a back seat, and allowed young Gandhi to embark on a self discovery.
<i>(The writer is Editor-Zee Research Group)</b>