Even though the incumbent Chief Minister made it clear that the issue was merely a disagreement over an administrative matter and that he is not looking for an exit route out of the alliance, doubts do linger about the future stability of the coalition. The statement of the senior Abdullah who is himself a minister in UPA that the CM of J&K would take the final decision on the alliance furthered the speculation.
The crux of the matter is related to the desire of Omar Abdullah to create a chain of new administrative units in his state. In total, the number of administrative units he wishes to create runs into several hundred, which among others include 23 new subdivisions, 57 tehsils, 63 CD blocks, 79 niabats and 733 patwar halqas.
Would the core Congress allies stick to UPA or exit with time in hand?
The possible reason for the insistence of Omar Abdullah to go ahead with this is because creation of so many administrative units would invariably create a substantial number of jobs in a state where private investments are hard to come by and state government jobs are one of the very few avenues for the youth to look up to for apply for a job.
With state elections due later this year, National Conference, which emerged as the single largest party in the last assembly election in the state, does not seem too confident about its prospects.
The dynamics of the J&K state and the related issues of inevitable counterinsurgency operations by armed forces, allegations of human rights violations, recurring demand for the withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Acts intermitted by terror attacks, which too are on the rise, are such that it is often extremely difficult for any incumbent government to be confident of being voted to power again.
It is for sure that incidents of the Kashmir unrest of 2010 which rattled the state as well as incidents like that of Army's giving cleat chit to five of its officers over the Pathribal encounter case would surely be raised by the valley based PDP while BJP is expected to raise issues of resurgence of terror attacks, intrusion of Pakistan and China and the beheading of Indian soldiers by Pakistani soldiers, in the Jammu region of the state.
In addition to this, general issues of corruption and price rise which have affected the people across the country and made them disenchanted with the UPA, are also expected to impact the electorate of J&K during both ensuing general elections as well as the state assembly elections later this year.
Keeping these things in mind, there is nothing much for National Conference to hope for in the ensuing elections and it is for sure that PDP has a better prospect. Creating additional government jobs through the formation of new administrative units might just save the day for Omar Abdullah and may in certain ways mitigate to some extent the anguish of the valley electorate.
From the Congress point of view, accepting the demands of Omar Abdullah would mean footing an additional bill of Rs 800 crore in the immediate future by the Central Government which is already reeling under severe fiscal stress. For Congress, which has in the past formed government in the state with PDP as well, knows well that whichever of the two major parties of J&K gets the largest number of seats would need the support of the Congress to be in power since neither might want to take support from BJP, which now is the fourth largest party in the state in terms of seats.
Even though on the face of it, Congress and NC may have patched up, any kind of different realignment or emergence of new combinations can never be ruled out. It is not impossible that NC break ties with Congress and go to the electorate be it before general elections or state election to claim that its efforts to create more jobs in the state have been stopped by Congress.
In the past as well National Conference has been a member of the Vajpayee led NDA regime. With Farooq Abdullah stating quite categorically that it would be people who would decide if Narendra Modi would be the next Prime Minister of India or not, there are enough indications that he might not be averse anymore to the issue of Modi becoming the next Prime Minister.
This in itself is a major shift in his stand and a seeming softening on the issue of Modi, which is also the case with some of the other allies of Congress in UPA, such as NCP. In that case the possibility of National Conference, however improbable it might see now, eventually aligning with NDA, in case it comes to power, can never be ruled out.
As things stand now, it seems that ally troubles are far from over for Congress and perhaps may even increase as election nears. With opinion polls predicting the emergence of NDA as the largest entity and within striking distance of clinching power, it would be interesting to see whether some of the core UPA members like NCP and NC as well as some of the others stick to UPA or exit with time in hand.