The moment the rumblings broke out within the Rajasthan Congress following the rebellion led by a small group of MLAs led by Sachin Pilot, the name of Abdullahs started being dragged in the affair. Pilot is the son-in-law of the former J&K Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah.
When Pilot went against the Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and was accused of hobnobbing with the BJP, some people started drawing a connection between his revolt and the release in March of Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, also a former Chief Minister. Father and son had been under detention since the annulment in August last year of Article 370 that granted J&K its autonomous constitutional position within Indian Union.
But the matter came to a head when the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bupesh Baghel in an interview linked the release of Omar to Rajasthan turmoil. Baghel said that “it does make one curious” why Omar was released when he and Mehbooba Mufti, a former J&K Chief Minister, were booked under the same sections of the law. Mehbooba continues to be under detention.
In response, Omar threatened Baghel with legal action. His party, National Conference, later issued a statement terming Baghel’s allegation as “false and scurrilous” and “defamatory to the reputation of Omar Abdullah”. The party argued that Omar’s release came about “after judicial intervention was sought from the Supreme Court and the illegal order of detention of Abdullah was challenged”.
“Given the indefensible nature of the illegal detention order the same was revoked by the Government during the course of the proceedings before the Supreme Court,’’ the statement read.
This is for the first time that Abdullah’s relationship with Pilot has become a subject of contentious public debate. It is true that Abdullah’s case at the Supreme Court was being fought by his sister Sara Pilot but Sachin Pilot was never in the picture.So in Kashmir, the release of Abdullahs was not figured to have even a distant association with Sachin Pilot. The issue in Kashmir, however, has been the silence of Abdullahs about the revocation of Article 370 since their release in March. Omar, who tweets frequently has stayed scrupulously short of writing about August 5 move. This has triggered all kinds of speculations about some kind of an understanding between the father, son and the union government in lieu of their release.
However, the NC’s position is that the August 5 move will be talked about once all the leaders are freed. Also, on his release from detention, Omar told media that the politics can wait till the time the fight against coronavirus was won. He also called on the people to support the government’s efforts against the spread of the contagion.
But then even when the centre successively passed laws that in Kashmir are widely seen as geared to change the demography of the region, the NC’s response was largely muted. But in recent past there have been some cautious conspicuous calls for the restoration of Article 370.
The NC also called for reopening of all traditional routes including Kargil-Skardu, Jammu- Sialkot and Poonch-Rawalakot to allow free movement of people across the Line of Control with Pakistan and Line of Actual Control with China and to promote people-to-people contact and strengthen inter-regional trade and cultural links.
Pilot’s entry into discourse now could make things difficult for Abdullahs. For the allegation that Pilot somehow played a role in their release connects them to the BJP in public imagination. This, in turn, casts a cloud on the post-Article 370 politics of the party. Hence the anger of Omar and a frantic effort by his party to dissociate from the Congress crisis in Rajasthan.