National Conference's political advisers are on the wrong side of camera in J&K
In Srinagar, last week proved a bad patch for ‘political advisors’ in J&K’s ‘first party’, the National Conference (NC).
Son of a poet lawyer who once became an envoy, Aslam Goni is one of Dr Abdullah’s most trusted lieutenants. A Jammu resident, he served as state’s attorney general in Dr Abdullah’s regime. Finally, Dr Abdullah, a long time president of the cash-rich J&K Cricket Association (JKCA) finally got him in and made him its chairman. Everything was hunky-dory till it was revealed very emphatically that most of the funds that the Association received went to shadowy accounts that Abdullah’ cronies opened in various banks. A carpet dealer Ehan Mirza, whom Dr Abdullah appointed a treasurer, was termed to be the principal beneficiary as he would mingle his business with the accounts of the JKCA to the extent that his carpet suppliers would be paid from JKCA account.
As media exposed the racket, police looked the other way. Even the JKCA remained firm that everything was all right. Later, police registered a case but it is yet to offer any idea about where their investigations have reached. There has not been a single arrest. When 40 of 62 JKCA members asked Goni, JKCA chairman, to step down, he refused. Interestingly, when JKCA landed in worst crisis of its existence in J&K, BCCI rewarded Goni by appointing him team manager for a T20 match in South Africa!
Initially JKCA indicated that of the Rs 78.47 crore that JKCA received in two years ending March 2012, Rs 27.90 crore was in arrears. After a four member team probed the racket on the request of Dr Abdullah, the JKCA president, it revealed last week that the total amount that three office bearers – Aslam Goni, Ahsan Mirza and Saleem Khan, have embezzled is Rs 40.53 crore. It was after this revelation that Goni was dumped by Abdullah from JKCA. Though the sleuths someday might require questioning more people in the sensational sports racket for their direct involvement in corruption, the ‘political advisor’ is out of sports, at least for the time being.
But the case of Dwinder Singh Rana is altogether different. An automobile engineer he struggled hard to become a self-made tycoon by selling and managing cars in an under-serviced and less professional market. His entry into media business led him to professionalize the cable news to a larger extent in Jammu besides controlling the distribution of major TV networks in the state. Right now Rana might be the only local company in J&K owning a vast OFC network in Jammu and Srinagar. For most of his latter years as an established player in business, Rana became a bosom friend of Omar and gradually emerged as a VIP in Omar’s coterie. Rana had capital but lacked power - more mass, less weight.
Then 2008 changed everything as Omar appointed him as his political adviser. Since then, Rana operates from Omar’s office. Initially there were murmurs against the “outsiders” but Rana fought his battle within to survive. The only difference was initially he was more visible and now he tries to maintain a low profile. He is Omar’s key crisis manager who is keen to be a kautilya.
Last week, Sajjad Lone, the Peoples Conference leader who is now a half-convert to the mainstream flock attacked him right, left and centre. In a hurriedly arranged news conference Lone accused Rana of “playing a don”. He said an SP and his Deputy had gone around “to harass” cable operators. “Rana who is a distributor for some national channels in the state holds a monopoly over airwaves and has been using this monopoly for conspicuous political motives despite his constitutional position in the government", Sajjad alleged. “Chief Minister is part and parcel of this tragic mafia-like behavior where local Kashmiri cable operators had to be subservient to distributors in Jammu.”
Kashmir Cable Operators Association denied the happening. Rana termed the allegations irresponsible and defamatory and announced he would go to court. Asserting that he crated 2000 jobs in the private sector as an entrepreneur, Rana said he resigned from all his executive responsibilities in his company when he joined the government. “I am fully aware of the reasons of the pangs of Sajjad Lone for the cable industry but I would leave it to his conscience to introspect and decide,” Rana said. “I challenge Lone or anybody else to cite or prove even a single instance in the last three and half years that I have called up any government functionary for any of my business interests, even a single instance shall be good enough for me to suffer consequences”.
After remaining on front pages for two days, the crisis is off the newsprint. But the situation suggests political advisors may require amulets as Kashmir’s peaceful summer is getting bumpy for neo-politicians.