That J&K National Conference leader Omar Abdullah would not oppose the nuclear deal — despite being in opposition to the UPA in the state — was well-known but in his speech in the Lok Sabha today in support of the confidence motion, he was at his impassioned best.
“I am a Muslim and I am an Indian,” he began. “And I see no distinction between the two. I don’t know why should I fear the nuclear deal. It is a deal between two countries which, I hope, will become two equals in the future,” said Abdullah. “The enemies of Indian Muslims are not America or deals like these. The enemies are the same as the enemies of all those who are poor — poverty, hunger, lack of development and the absence of a voice.”
This was a pointed reference to the Opposition benches who tried to drown UPA speakers with the chorus of protests against the alleged bribe offer that rocked Parliament hours earlier.
Slamming the Left for acting like judges on the secular credentials of political parties, Abdullah said, “Today, the Left is telling me that all secular parties should stand with the BJP to bring down this government. The same Left treated me like a political untouchable when I was with the NDA.”
“I am not a member of the UPA and don’t aspire to be one. I made a mistake to be with the NDA, especially after Gujarat riots happened. My conscience had asked me to quit NDA but I didn’t. My conscience has still not forgiven me,” he said.
On the Amarnath issue that Leader of Opposition L K Advani had highlighted in his speech yesterday, Abdullah said he had fought for the cause since it involved the land of his people. He dared the BJP to name a single leader from Jammu and Kashmir who had opposed the Amarnath yatra. “Until the day there is even a single Muslim in Kashmir, from Srinagar to Amarnath, the Amarnath yatra will not be allowed to stop,” he said.
Hours after his speech, speaking to The Indian Express, Abdullah said: “It was what I felt. I spoke straight from the heart.”
“There has been a concerted effort to create this perception that first the Muslims are against the nuclear deal with America and also that the nuclear deal with America is anti-Muslim. This is all rubbish and this perception is being created by those political parties who always want to brand Muslims to be against the interests of the country,” he said. “That’s why I did emphasise that I am a Muslim and I am an Indian and that the two are not mutually exclusive”.
He said he was worried whether he will get a chance or not to speak during the debate. “All through the day, it was about cash, bribery and what not. There was a lot of chaos and I really thought I will not get a chance to speak,” he said.
Abdullah’s speech was one of the three that the UPA unveiled towards the end of the debate in its attempt to nail what it called the “canard” that Muslims were against the nuclear deal — both Mayawati and CPM’s M K Pandhe had made that claim. AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi and PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, too, attacking the opposition BJP and criticizing the Left for its new alignment.
“I would like to counter the canard that is being spread that the Muslims of this country are against the nuclear deal. I just want to ask why don’t the rulers of UP and West Bengal CMs single out and tell whether the Dalits or the Hindus of their state support the deal or not,” asked Owaisi. “I am supporting the government because I do not want at any cost the leader of Opposition LK Advani as the Prime Minister.”
Owaisi also took swipe at the Left parties for playing the ball along with the opposition BJP in this situation.
“I am very well aware of the Left’s hatred against the minorities. While there are about 28 percent Muslims in the West Bengal, why is it that their representation is merely 2 per cent? This is not the way to claim supporting the minorities. If you want to support the BJP, then go ahead. But I am very clear, if Advani becomes the Prime Minister who will suffer? I will suffer a loss. I have already suffered the loss of the Babri masjid,” said Owaisi.
Without attacking the Left, the PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti took potshots at the opposition BJP saying that while they are not against nuclear deal with the US they want to re-negotiate is as they want to take credit for such a historical decision.
“Let me accept that many people in this august house does not understand the nuclear deal in detail. But it is surprising that the BJP, which has been the pioneer of the nuclear deal, is now opposing the deal simply because they would like to take credit for such a deal. But now they are opposing,” said Mufti.