Jammu, Feb 27: With the opposition gathering all necessary political ammunition to target the Omar Abdullah-headed coalition government, the stage is set for a budget session of the state legislature, beginning Thursday, that is likely to generate much heat.
The ruling alliance of National Conference and Congress is also divided down the middle on several issues.
Among the divisive issues are: The possible extension of the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Indian constitution to Jammu and Kashmir, which would create more powers and working space for village heads; the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which many seek to be repealed from the state; and the manner in which the National Conference responded to the hanging, Feb 9, of the Dec 2001 parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, to which its alliance partner Congress took umbrage.
“The empowerment of panchayats is a major issue, we are committed to it,” Pradesh Congress Committee president Saif-ud-Din Soz told legislators of his party.
The Congress is not impressed by the National Conference’s counter argument that “those powers would be transferred sooner or later”.
“Some of the powers have been transferred and more would be given in the due course of time,” Panchayati Raj Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar told IANS.
On the issue of empowerment of panchayats and security of panchayat heads, the Congress and the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), see eye to eye.
“The concern over the security of panches and sarpanches (elected village council members and heads) is uppermost. We will be raising it,” PDP spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar told IANS.
The return of the body of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru to his family so they can conduct his last rites in accordance with their beliefs has become a rallying point for Kashmir-based political groups and separatists alike.
The matter is likely to see much heated debate in the assembly session.
“The hanging could have been avoided,” PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said. He has also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking that the body of Guru be returned to his family in Kashmir.
“We will definitely raise this issue in the assembly,” Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said, asserting that he was the first political leader from the state to take the matter up with the prime minister.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah too, meanwhile, has revealed that he too had written to the prime minister, seeking that Guru’s body be returned to his wife and son.
Though Mufti Sayeed and Omar Abdullah appear to be on the same page in the matter, the two parties remain in a confrontation mode. Omar Abdullah has accused the Mufti of “playing politics” over the issue.
Jammu-based parties like the Bhartiya Janta Party, now reduced to just four members in the legislative council after its seven members were expelled on charges of cross-voting in council elections in April 2011, and the National Panthers Party (NPP), are all set to take on the government over “discrimination meted out to Jammu region”.
“Jammu has been discriminated against when it comes to development projects. This discrimination just continues under the Omar Abdullah administration. We will raise this matter on the floor of the house, it is a matter of our right,” BJP legislator Ashok Khajuria said.
The NPP too has similar plans.
The opposition parties, including the PDP, BJP and NPP, expect to take on the government over its “failure to govern, and rampant corruption in the ranks of the present regime”.