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Soz is my political mentor, says Omar Abdullah

By Onkar singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: December 30, 2008 20:04 IST
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Omar Abdullah, who met with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday afternoon, told the media that the Congress would very much be a part of his government.

Abdullah was addressing his first press conference outlining his point of view on various important issues before his government.

"Let me make it clear that since I would not be corrupt hence I would have no hesitation in throwing out a minister if he indulges in corrupt practices. Anti defection laws are very strict hence my government is not going to fall if the minister is dropped. I would expect the Congress to do the same," Omar Abdullah said.

One of the first tasks that he undertook was to visit Saifuddin Soz and express his gratitude. "I must say that Soz Sahib has been a great source of strength,"he said. Abdullah clarified that he looked upon Soz as his political mentor.

Explaining the difference between last elections and the current one, Omar Abdullah said that before the 2002 elections he had got the names of officers who would be working with him and then he lost. "I decided not to have a team of my choice till I get elected," he said.

Giving details of his meeting with Sonia Gandhi, he said that the Congress president hoped that the good work by the Azad's government would be continued by 'my government.' "We are setting up a committee which would finalize names of those who would join the government. I do not think that Azad Sahib who headed the government would like to join me as deputy chief minister. There would be a deputy chief minister from theĀ  Jammu region to remove the notion that there is difference between the two regions. If there was a chief minister from Jammu then the deputy chief minister would have been from the valley," Abdullah said.

He denied that there was any directive from the Congress president for sharing power on a rotational basis. " No such issue was discussed," he said. Farooq Abdullah would be brought to Rajya Sabha, Omar indicated.

Omar said that it is his commitment to ensure that some Pandits reach the Upper house.

Omar complimented the people of the state for rising to the occasion and voting in large number defying that boycott call give by the militants. " There are places where you have to walk for six hours to reach the place. There are villages that needs potable drinking water and electricity at a reasonable rate. Mufti Sahib has offered to make Soz as chief minister without any conditions by giving outside support. I would be happy if Soz became the chief minister," Abdullah said.

The Congress rejected theMufti's proposal as the Peoples Democratic Party was instrumental in bringing down the government headed by Gulam Nabi Azad.

Incidentally it was Farooqh Abdullah who expelled Soz from the National Conference nine years ago.

He said that one of the top most periority would be to ensure return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley. It would take time. " I would be visiting various Kashmiri Pandits camps talk to them about it," he said.

Talking about development in Kashmir he said that both Jammu and the Valley claimed that it was the other region that was benefitted, so the new government had decided to set up a commission of inquiry under a Supreme Court judge to find out the truth.

"One thing I must concede that while my predecessors had to deal with security issue, I do not have to do that as the number of violent incidents have gone down. I am glad that both India and Pakistan have started softening their stand on Kashmir. We have fought enough wars and no issue can be resolved by war. Instead it would be nice to sit on a table and talk things out. I hope the clouds of war would be over soon if one goes by the statement of the Pakistani army's chief of staff.,"

Omar said who is likely to have a mini government before full one takes over after Moharram. " I would meet the governor N N Vohra in Jammu and then decide when to take over," he said.

Omar blamed Mufti Mohammad Sayeed for a desperation to get back into power. If the PDP claims that the Congress party should have consulted them then it is for the congress party to clarify the stand.

"If BJP and PDP sit in opposition then it would be difficult for them to walk out on a single issue," Abdullah said with a broad smile.

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Onkar singh in New Delhi