Cong-NC coalition boat sinking?

New Delhi: The ruling coalition between the Congress and the National Conference (NC) in Jammu and Kashmir may split amid indications that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was considering resigning following sharp differences between the two parties.
The state leadership of the Congress is stonewalling Omar’s cherished scheme of creating some 700 new administrative units in the state ahead of the April-May Lok Sabha polls and the scheduled Assembly elections in October- November this year.
This has set the two parties on a collision course and efforts to resolve the standoff have failed despite a meeting attended by AICC General Secretary in-charge of the state Ambika Soni, State PCC Chief Saifuddin Soz, Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Omar here Monday.
NC sources said an upset Chief Minister was thinking of stepping down because the state Congress appeared determined to “sabotage” the scheme that it feels will benefit NC in the upcoming elections.
If Omar, who has headed the coalition that has ruled for the last five years, resigns, the NC may push for advancing the Assembly polls and holding them along with the Lok Sabha elections. His resignation may pave the way for a spell of Governor’s rule in the state.
Omar had met Congress President Sonia Gandhi last week over the issue and Congress sources said later that she was in favour of the issue getting resolved soon. But no progress had been made thereafter.
A senior leader of the state Congress said that the party was opposed to the creation of administrative units without thinking of financial implications of the proposal. Moreover, it had to be ensured that there was equitable distribution of the units in various regions of the state.
This is countered by the NC which points out that the last Congress Chief Minister of the state Azad had created eight new districts. An administrative unit was much smaller than a district.
The standoff over the units is only the latest in a number of sharp differences between the coalition partners who often seem to lack confidence in each other. They have had differences over the issue of autonomy as well as revocation of AFSPA which gives Army sweeping powers.
The feeling in the NC is that it has been a loyal ally and that Omar has taken a lot of flak for the wrongdoings of Congress ministers in the state. The leadership of the state Congress was “always playing games”, said an NC leader.
NC had emerged as the single largest party in the 2008 Assembly elections winning 28 seats in the 87-member House followed by PDP with 21 and Congress with 17. The Congress leadership had agreed that the Chief Ministership would remain with NC through the six-year tenure.
The background to the standoff over administrative units is that the state Cabinet had discussed the Mushtaq Ganaie committee recommendations in July last year.
In view of the differences within the Cabinet, Omar had set up a Cabinet Sub Committee (CSC) headed by Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand with Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, PHE Minister Shyam Lal, Higher Education Minister Akbar Lone and Planning Minister Ajay Sadotra as members.
The CSC, which toured extensively to various parts of the state, was supposed to give its report to the Cabinet within a month. However, it has been getting a series of extensions since then.
During the last Cabinet meeting, the angry Chief Minister reluctantly gave an extension of one week after which he said that the matter would be discussed irrespective of whether the CSC submits its report or not.
The Ganaie Committee, which was formed for examining demand of creation of new administrative units, had proposed creation of a total of 23 sub-divisions across the state, which include 10 for Jammu region, 12 for Kashmir Valley and one for Ladakh region.
It has recommended creation of 57 tehsils—28 for Jammu region, 25 for Kashmir Valley and 4 for Ladakh region comprising Leh and Kargil districts.
As far as Niabats are concerned, the Committee recommended 79 units which include 40 for Jammu region, 34 for Kashmir Valley and five for Ladakh region. Likewise, it has proposed creation of 63 Community Development blocks, which include 29 for Jammu, 31 for Kashmir valley and three for Ladakh.
As per the report, creation of a total of 733 Patwar Halqas has been recommended for the state out of which 340 have been proposed for Jammu region, 385 for Kashmir Valley and eight for Ladakh region.—PTI