“If the Delhi grapevine is to be believed, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah and his wife Payal are getting divorced by mutual consent.
“The reason behind the break-up is apparently a TV anchor from the State, who the 41-year-old CM wants to marry. The anchor is a divorcee and has been in two live-in relationships since her divorce. But the marriage is being opposed by his father Dr Farooq Abdullah and his party, the National Conference, as the lady is not a Muslim. The NC wants Abdullah to marry a Kashmiri Muslim girl….
“Omar had married Payal, the daughter of Major General Ram Nath (retired), a Sikh, in 1994, four years before he entered politics. He has not visited his Akbar road residence in New Delhi, where Payal lives with their two sons, for the last six months. When asked by this columnist, a close Omar Abdullah aide said on the condition of anonymity, ‘All I can say is that they are separated.’
“Mixed marriages are common in the Abdullah family. Farooq Abdullah had married a British lady, Omar Abdullah’s sister Sarah is married to Sachin Pilot. But conservative Kashmiri politics has not allowe these women to make Srinagar their home.”
Update 1 (15 September): The Delhi Times supplement of The Times of India too has jumped into the picture, with a story that claims that the separation of Abdullah and his wife of 17 years, Payal, “can now be safely assumed to be official status”.
“…people Delhi Times spoke to confirmed the fact that the split had been coming for a while, most of them declined to comment on the speculation over the reason behind the split. They did, however, affirm that talk of Omar’s remarriage is on.
“In that context, there are two names doing the rounds – one, a friend of Omar, supposedly his choice (a highprofile mediaperson), and two, a choice preferred by his dad and his party, the sister of politician Nasir Aslam Wani. Wani, believed to be a confidante of the CM, is currently J&K’s minister of state for Home.”
Update 2 (15 September): Meanwhile, Omar Abdullah has responded to the speculation on his Twitter account, posting four messages within minutes of each other, and promising a “separate statement” shortly:
Photograph: Omar Abdullah with wife Payal and their children in happier times (courtesy The Telegraph)