Srinagar/New Delhi: The killing of two sarpanches by terrorists in Kashmir has pitted the Congress party against its ally the National Conference. Youth Congress activists were on Friday lathicharged by the police in Jammu as they protested against the Omar Abdullah government, even as Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi pitched for more powers for local body leaders.
The sarpanches in the state have also reacted strongly against the Jammu and Kashmir government.
While one of the sarpanches said that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah must step down, another hit out at the state government saying, "They do not want to decentralise power. We demand Omar's resignation."
The issue of the security of sarpanches has divided good friends Omar Abdullah and Rahul Gandhi.
Even as Omar stuck to his ground, Rahul expressed concern over the security of sarpanches, demanding more powers to them, and in a snub to Omar, was quick to meet them as well.
While the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister has ruled out giving special and more power for the sarpanches, the politics of the Congress general secretary is about giving more power to local body leaders.
And as Youth Congress workers were beaten in Srinagar, the two young leaders who usually thought alike are now pitted in opposite sides.
Congress leader Renuka Chaudhary, in a press conference, said, "Allow two citizens to have a conversation and a dialogue on an issue which none of us are really in the grips about."
Reacting to the steps by Rahul Gandhi, National Conference leader Mehboob Baig said the issue should have been discussed in the coordination committee in the state and should not have been taken to Delhi.
He said, "We have a coordination committee here and Professor Saifuddin Soz is heading the committee. He should have sorted it out within the coordination committee."
However, Omar Abdullah has played down the differences between him and the Gandhi scion, tweeting that the rift was imaginary.
He posted a tweet saying, "Have to love the media priorities when my imaginary battle with Rahul is more important than what the President says in Kashmir."
The showdown is likely to linger on as the National Conference is unwilling to budge from incorporating the 73rd and the 74th amendment to sarpanches, citing it would dilute the special status to Jammu and Kashmir while its ally in government, the Congress has hit streets for more rights to be given to them.
The action will now shift to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly where Opposition PDP is tabling a bill, although in a tinkered form, on sarpanch rights. It has sought support from the Congress clearly, aiming to isolate the National Conference over the issue.