New Delhi: Observing that the country was yet to mature to multi-party governance, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday said it is impossible to eradicate corruption in a coalition government as "trade-offs" become necessary in such a dispensation.
"It is impossible to eradicate corruption in a coalition government," Omar said at the Hindustan Times Summit programme titled 'What India needs: Perspective of young leaders'.
During the discussion, in which Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal also participated, Omar was asked whether whether it was difficult to fight corruption in a coalition government.
"I believe that you can fight corruption but I also believe it is impossible to eradicate corruption in a coalition dispensation and that is the way it is.
"This is my opinion and you can have yours. This opinion is formed not because I am a Chief Minister of a coalition government for a few years, but this opinion is formed by the last more than a decade of electoral politics, both with UPA and NDA.
The Chief Minister, who was a Minister of State in the NDA regime also, said, "I believe both governments would have wanted to do more to fight corruption but they found themselves in coalition where unfortunately trade offs become necessary".
Omar said it was the regional parties and not the states, which dictate the policy to the Centre and cited Foreign Direct Investment in retail as an example.
"Jammu and Kashmir government should have been free to decide whether it wanted FDI in retail or West Bengal Government would have been free to stop it. But at the end, regional parties were able to call the shots," he said.
The Chief Minister said he has not generally faced any problems with the Centre and that the perception about him being a 'Delhi's man in Kashmir or Kashmir's man in Delhi' was limiting his role.
"Why I have to be either. I represent the aspirations of people of my state in Delhi when I come here and I also inform people of my state as to what is happening here and how we will be impacted in J and K by the policies and decision of the Government of India.
"I am the bridge between the state and the Centre and, therefore, to try and pigeon hole me as one or the other, is, I believe will be simplistic," he said.
Omar said he had done a lot of plain speaking during his tenure as Chief Minister. "When Sonia Gandhiji was in Srinagar to inaugurate a railway station, I told her, look we are grateful for all economic assistance we receive but let's not forget at basic level that Jammu and Kashmir is a political issue.
"It requires political handling. You can't buy a solution in Jammu and Kashmir. Now these are not statements for which I got a slap on my wrist....," he recalled.
Omar felt that he was the most outspoken Chief Minister as far as Jammu and Kashmir was concerned including that on the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
"I have been the most outspoken Chief Minister as far as JK is concerned whether in regard to the AFSPA unlike one of my predecessors who only discovered it after he demitted office. I have been talking about it consistently as Chief Minister," he said, without naming PDP patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.
Omar noted that at times the boundaries were overstepped, which undermined the individual characteristic of the state.
"Like we had trouble in 2010, it did not help my cause to have the Home Secretary come to Srinagar and talk about when and where curfew will be lifted. It has nothing to do with that but in person it gives an impression that it was Delhi which was pulling the strings, which was not correct.
"So there are times when certain people here need to recognise that states have their own individual character and authority and they need to be careful not to step on their toes but other than that I don't have any other problem with the Government of India."
Asked if age was coming in the way of his Congress ministers not taking him seriously in the cabinet especially Peerzada Sayeed, who had said that he would be submitting his resignation to Congress President Sonia Gandhi only, he said, "No. I have had no problem of being taken seriously. I operate in a coalition system.
"The Congress Ministers, at the end of the day, belong to Congress party and, therefore, they are accountable to their leadership," he said, defending Peerzada's decision.
Peerzada was divested of his portfolio of education department after it was alleged that his son passed the board exams using unfair means.
"What Peerzada Sayeed Saheb said is not wrong. He is being absolutely correct. His primary loyalty will lie with Mrs Gandhi. Having said that in the conduct of his work, I never had problems with any of my Congress ministers not following through with decisions that have been taken or the discussions that I had.
"I had never had a Minister turn around and say that I will go and tell Mrs Gandhi and get this decision reversed," he said.
The Chief Minister lamented that in India age was being equated with wisdom. "It is a different matter that in this country, for whatever reasons, we equate age and wisdom. The older you are the wiser you are. And, therefore, younger people are believed to be incapable of delivering.
He said the average age profile in the west had changed dramatically as compared to India and added in a lighter vein, that "it is one of the reasons why I am grey as it is a disadvantage to hide it in this country".