Omar to be CM; Cong manages its share of pie

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 31 2008, 07:15am hrs
Omar Abdullah will be the new as well as youngest chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, after the National Conference and the Congress on Tuesday sewed up an alliance to form an equal partnership government in the state.

The Congress will not only get the deputy chief ministers portfolio, but also an equal number of Cabinet berthsdisproportionate to the 17 seats which it got compared to the 28 won by the NC in the 87 member state assembly. Congress circles said Tara Chand Sharma was the probable candidate for the deputy CM post. The two parties were part of an alliance previously in 1987.

The announcement of the NC-Congress pact came after 38-year-old Omar met Congress president Sonia Gandhi here. Among others who attended the meeting included former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, union minister and J&K Congress chief Saifuddin Soz and Rahul Gandhi. Omar said the Congress will be a part of the government and would not merely give outside support.

This is going to be a government of partnership. It is going to be a partnership, a coalition between the National Conference and the Congress. We are equal partners. We have an equal stake, said Omar, who made his debut in the state assembly by winning the Ganderbal seat. It has been decided that I will lead the coalition government in the state of which Congress will be a part of, said Omar, who was educated in Mumbai and Scotland and has Masters degree in Business Administration.

Asked about the details of the new government and whether it will be a three-year term each for NC and Congress, Omar said a committee would be formed by both the parties to go into the nitty-gritties of the alliance. From the Congress, party general secretary in charge of J and K, Prithiviraj Chavan said, Omar Abdullah called on Congress President and proposed formation of a coalition government. The Congress president has accepted the proposal. Omars father and NC patron Farooq Abdullah, who was himself a claimant for the top job, said the alliance will usher in a new era of development in the border state and also help better relations India and Pakistan.

The PDP, which had a tie-up with the Congress in the previous J-K government, said it was not disappointed over the decision of the Congress to join a government led by the NC and maintained the people of the state have given it a mandate to play the role of a good, constructive opposition.

On the Kashmir issue, Omars underlined the need for a middle ground and termed autonomy a way forward in resolution of the problem. NC believes autonomy is a way forward in resolution of this problem and I do not think why anybody should have serious reservations against it. Its not unconstitutional to talk about it. Its all within the framework of the Constitution, Abdullah said.

He also said that his government would reach out to Kashmiri Pandits. I have a huge responsibility towards Kashmiri Pandits and I would seek to create an atmosphere in which the displaced Pandits can come back to the valley, he added. NC will be nominating Kashmiri Pandits in the Upper House. We will get them in the Cabinet, he said.