We need to give Omar time and support: Rahul Gandhi


Kolkata : Solidly backing beleagured Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said Thursday he was an elected leader who was doing a “tough” job and needed time and support.

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“Our government has supported Omar, who is the elected leader of the National Conference, our alliance partner in the state. The National Conference is the party in power. It is their decision as to who runs the show,” Rahul Gandhi said at a press conference.

“Kashmir is a difficult place. I think Omar is doing a tough job… I think we have to give him some time and support. Kashmir is a tough and sensitive job,” he said.

Within hours, Abdullah thanked Gandhi for coming out in support. “I am grateful to Rajiv Gandhi for his support. I will thank him personally,” he told TimesNow channel.

Gandhi’s comments came amid speculation about the Congress may be planning to ditch Abdullah’s National Conference and enter into a partnerhip with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kashmir.

PDP bigwig Mufti Mohammad Sayeed met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi Wednesday in a bid to defuse the situation in Kashmir where nearly 90 civilians have died in protests, mostly in firing by the security forces.

Asked if the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) should be withdrawn in Kashmir, Rahul Gandhi said: “I think there are people who have gone there and are better informed about the situation. It’s a bit wrong for me to have a position on this without having been there.

“I would defer to the prime minister on issues like AFSPA. For me to say whether I am for or against is easy to do. But I need to understand Kashmir in detail before that. I think this (taking a position) would be irresponsible and unfair. I lower my head to the prime minister.”

Gandhi said he had no intention of intervening in Kashmir as that was not a “part time job” and he had been assigned the task of rejuvenating the Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India (NSUI).

He said the youths of Jammu of Kashmir needed to be brought into the political system in greater numbers.

“I have already said this and I say this everywhere I go. The Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) also said this yesterday – we need to involve youngsters in politics. We need to bring the youths of Jammu and Kashmir into the system.”

He was speaking on the concluding day of his three-day trip to West Bengal ahead of next year’s assembly polls.