After ruling for six-long years the National Conference finds itself in tatters with the ruling party suffering a major jolt in the Lok Sabha polls when it’s patron the shrewd Farooq Abdullah had to bite dust along with others. Now the assembly polls are on the anvil and the National Conference is still working on the agenda for the next 6 years to lure the masses. However, the party is looking like a sinking ship, however if the leadership introspects it will not have to look far to know the reasons why NC is on such a shaky ground. The NC leaders will just have to go through the party manifesto of 2008 election to realize their folly as none of the promises which were made in the manifesto during the last election have been delivered. The National Conference promise of autonomy which is the bedrock of party’s policy was forgotten during the last six years despite the fact that it was the biggest poll promise made by it during the polls. The Omar Abdullah government despite having strong say and backing in the UPA government did little on the autonomy front except issuing statements which had little substance. The NC also failed to deliver on the political front both at the level of getting more autonomy but also ensuring a balance between the three regions of Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu. While the people of Kashmir are disgruntled by mis-governance, and incorrigible corruption; the people of Jammu are hurt by discrimination, and lack of development in the province. The Ladakhis are irretrievably hurt by lack of political empowerment, and little development in their area which catapulted BJP to victory in the Lok Sabha polls in Ladakh.
The National Conference had identified almost half a million unemployed youth in Jammu and Kashmir which the party manifesto said needed employment. The party had promised jobs to these thousands of youth but on the ground the NC government failed to deliver employment both in private, and public sector. The employment policy which was introduced by the state government was so skewed that Omar was forced to rescind the so-called new recruitment policy. It is the same policy which lead to massive unrest among the youth, and has also led to resurgence of BJP, and PDP in the state. The NC poll manifesto also identified corruption, leakages, and siphoning of funds as a perennial problem in the state. However, general perception in Jammu and Kashmir is that the Omar government, and it’s leaders failed to curb the menace of corruption, and it went unchecked in all the departments of the state. Whether it was development work, hiring employees or other government decision making everything happened under the influence of power and pelf. The Accountability Commission which was established with much fanfare proved to be a non-starter despite the fact that it was mentioned that this commission would play an important role in bringing accountability in the state.
The Right to Information Act, the NC Manifesto had said would be empowered, and strengthened but in reality the government led by Omar failed to embrace the spirit of RTI. The RTI activists across the state were left protesting during the tenure of this government which believed in hiding more than it revealed. The manifesto also talked of single-line administration, and strengthening of Panchayati raj but none of these became stronger on the ground, and these institutions remained in usual inertia. The NC manifesto had also promised that tourism will be promoted across the state particularly in backward areas of Jammu, Poonch, Rajouri, and Ladakh. However, tourism too failed to take off in the state, and no visible development on ground has taken place. The Mubarak Mandi heritage complex which was in shambles is still in bad shape, the rope-way project which was to connect Bahu fort with Mubarak Mandi has remained in limbo despite tall promises.
The return of Kashmiri Pandits was made an important poll promise in the manifesto but the NC government failed to ensure that the migrant community could make even first steps needed for their peaceful return and safety. The manifesto also promised that power situation in the state would be improved considerably but summer after summer the people of the state suffered badly while the government functioned in the cool environs of Kashmir. The empowerment of local self governments in the Municipalities also did not happen except in promises made by the state. The panches and sarpanches also remained disaffected which has ultimately resulted in the people of the state getting disenchanted from the party which was once the number one choice for ruling the state. Concluding it can be said that NC under the present leadership has become a ship which lacks direction and it is reaping what it sowed in the last six years. It will have to learn from the mistakes today if it wants to remain relevant in the political scheme of things.