'I must have more direct interaction with people'

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Oracle, Jul 11, 2010.

  1. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

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    Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has had a tumultuous fortnight. As violence spreads across the Kashmir valley, his leadership has come under intense scrutiny. In a candid interview with Josy Joseph and M Saleem Pandit, Abdullah admits he made mistakes and needs to roll up his sleeves and get to work. Excerpts:

    Why did you decide to ease curfew restrictions on Friday evening?

    We knew we could not justify holding of the festival, Shabi Miraj, under curfew conditions. We were counting on the better sense of the majority. Fortunately, this is what happened. We discussed the plan over the past two days and that is how things played out.

    Your decision to call for Army assistance in Srinagar hasn't gone down well with residents, and is being seen as a sign of your weakness. Do you regret the decision?

    Not at all. I had only one objective, to ensure that there are no more deaths. I didn't bother how it reflected on me politically or administratively. The raw anger that was visible should not translate into more deaths. Therefore, we discussed with our ministers, officials, corps commander who is my security advisor, and the Northern Army commander. We had worked out our strategy. Fortunately, the premise on which it was taken, turned out correct. Yesterday, (Friday) the Army did not come out, and today too, we didn't have the Army out.

    So are you asking the Army to go back?

    No, we are keeping the option available to me until the 13th when they (the separatists) have called an “Idgah chalo” protest march...we will review the decision again.

    The widespread complaint is that you lack a firm grip on the administration. And the crisis, many believe, seems to reflect that.

    We had trouble for two weeks in some parts of the cities. It cannot reflect how bad governance has been. If it indeed was bad, then protests should have spread across the state. The troubles erupted in areas where we got very low polling percentage in elections, where voting was less than 20% even in the 2008 election that was considered a major success. Areas where there were larger turnouts in the past elections have been peaceful in these two weeks.

    Many accuse your government of mishandling the crisis.


    When normalcy is restored I would personally, and with others, analyze the entire situation so that we can learn from this crisis. I had a difficult situation to deal with and I took what I presumed were appropriate decisions.

    Are you worried you might be disconnected from the public?

    How can that be true when I have had more cabinet meetings in these few months this year than what past CMs may have had in an entire year? How can you accuse me of being disconnected when I have had 44 district development board meetings in the past year alone? Of course, I can increase the quantum of public interaction. That is something that has come out of it. I have to increase my direct interactions with the public. Unfortunately, I prefer small town-hall meetings with 20 people, where I can attend to their problems, than large gatherings of thousands where I give a speech and get on a helicopter and fly away. I have already made up my mind to go and have meetings at the tehsil levels, so that more people can interact with me freely.

    There are complaints that you have surrendered yourself to a coterie.

    How can anyone accuse me of (surrendering to) a coterie when I am dealing directly with all my senior officials and cabinet members? I don't deal with the DG or chief secretary through a coterie. I have a telephone where I have a button for each of my ministers. They also have to only press a button to talk to me. All of them also have my mobile numbers.

    If this is the reality, why is there such a buzz in this city and among your senior officials about your failings as an administrator?

    Perhaps I am a bad salesman. I am really bad at propaganda. I cannot sell myself, which makes me a lousy politician. Here people do one thing and sell 20 claims. I do 20 things and sell just one. My party is also at fault. If I am a bad salesman, then the party should come up and communicate with the people. The biggest lesson that I have learned from the crisis is that I will spend less time in office and more in the field.

    If you look at the street protests and violence, you see a larger frustration among the people about the government's inability to bring lasting peace. Is that something you agree with?

    Both the state and centre have realized in the last 15 days that the absence of political dialogue is not healthy for the state. We have to keep making efforts to reach out to those away from the political process. Many mistook the 2008 election as the end of the problem. No, it is not; it is one of the means to finding the end to the problem. Look at the present crisis: the root of the problem also lies in the absence of such effort...Some initiatives need to be taken. Of course, governance I need to handle. I need to improve delivery, public contact and public perception.

    Are you frightened by the scale of vested interest in strife — from stone-throwers to policemen — that have emerged from two decades of militancy?

    Yes, I am surprised. We all know there are vested interests. It is easy to make the mistake of seeing everything in black and white in J&K. Not all protests are instigated by the LeT. It is a mixture of both. How we handle protests determines what happens the next day.

    There are allegations about your too-frequent weekends in Delhi with your family?

    I put in long hours at work from Monday to Saturday. I travel around a lot. When things are fine, nobody remembers my weekend trip to Delhi. Did the trouble arise because I was in Delhi? I haven't left the state for a month now. If my absence is the problem then there should not be the present problem. The way I work I can understand issues in five minutes what someone else may take half an hour. Often, the longer you sit in a meeting is reflected as one's capability. I do not agree with that. In 18 months of my tenure, I have had a couple of bad weeks this year, and a couple of bad weeks last year. If those two bad weeks are going to be used to assess me, then I can't help it. That is politics, I suppose.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/...teraction-with-people/articleshow/6152845.cms
     
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  3. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

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    I kinda like this guy. Suave, savvy, educated and never afraid to speak his mind. He has what it takes to be a future PM.
     

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