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Out of electoral contest but not out of political picture

Whether being hailed or criticised, Dr Farooq Abdullah is an inseparable part of J&K politics for decades now
12:00 AM Apr 17, 2024 IST | ZAHOOR MALIK
out of electoral contest but not out of political picture

For health reasons National Conference (NC) President Dr Farooq Abdullah is out of Lok Sabha election contest. But he is not out of the political picture.


He is very much active on the political front as he used to be while himself contesting the polls.  The NC President continues to attend party and public meetings and addressing the media. He recently campaigned for Congress candidates in Udhampur and Jammu parliamentary constituencies.


Dr Farooq Abdullah also goes on to guide the senior party leaders and workers how to go about in the crucial parliamentary polls. His presence boosts their morale amid the challenging elections.


Whether being hailed or criticised, Dr Farooq Abdullah is an inseparable part of Jammu and Kashmir politics for decades now. He has dominated the political scene whenever in power and remained very much visible when in opposition.


The NC President sometimes committed political blunders and suffered also but his urge to bounce back always keeps him politically strong and positive. In  past his political opponents were jealous of him and his supporters envious of him thinking that he has got the best political luck among all the politicians of Jammu and Kashmir.


They thought he was getting political power easily, without  seriously working hard for it. There was a perception that despite his drawbacks he was destined to rule.


But then the rise of PDP as a political alternative kept on giving setbacks to him and his party. Farooq Abdullah himself lost the parliamentary polls from Srinagar constituency in 2014.  And NC had to be out of power after 2002 and 2014 assembly elections and PDP formed coalition governments with Congress and BJP respectively.


The NC President’s  critics say that sometimes  his non-serious approach in governance, and taking opposition lightly helped PDP to take root, and challenge the political authority of NC. His U-turns sometimes too affected his political credibility. So did his over-dependence on his tactics to woo successive central governments, and at the same time ignore the eroding support base in Kashmir.

However,  to his credit  Dr Farooq Abdullah  would always try to come back strong after the setbacks and lead his party from the front to victories again. Following NC’ s loss in 2002 polls, the party regained power after 2008 assembly elections and formed coalition government with Congress.

After his loss in 2014 elections, Dr Farooq Abdullah was elected to Lok Sabha in a by-election in 2017 as PDP MP Tariq Hameed Karra resigned from the Lok Sabha following differences with his party leadership. Later in 2019 parliamentary polls NC President was re-elected from Srinagar. However, this time in 2024 he is not contesting the polls due to health reasons.

After August 5, 2019 when PDP almost disintegrated, the NC President kept his flock together amid tough situations. Not only he ensured a united NC but he kept on moving from one area to another reaching out to people particularly his  workers and supporters to boost their morale.

Even now when the important parliamentary polls are being held, Dr Farooq Abdullah is politically visible and active. His outreach to people is aimed at making them feel that the oldest and premier political party of Jammu and Kashmir is very much alive and on the forefront.

Right now he is himself out of contest but he knows that how important these polls are for his party. Any debacle right now can have serious consequences for NC in future and more particularly in coming assembly polls. Dr Farooq does not want his  party to suffer at this juncture. He knows that being complacent now will prove costly. So he continues to be alert and wants his party to be alert as well.

After the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state into two union territories and subsequent changed political scenario when other leaders, younger than him, felt demoralised, he himself tried to adjust with the changes.

The NC President in fact kept on advising  publicly others, including his son and party Vice President  Omar Abdullah to adjust in new atmosphere. Some years back Omar had stated he would not contest assembly polls as long as J&K is a union territory. But Dr Farooq Abdullah  told him to contest. “I will contest assembly polls and hope Omar sahab  will contest and reconsider his decision of not contesting,” he says.

Now that Omar is the NC candidate in Lok Sabha polls for Baramulla constituency, Dr Farooq Abdullah continues to play an important role for the party in every possible way.

Some political observers say that  despite his  seniority,  vast political experience and stature  Dr Farooq Abdullah could not handle with maturity the seat sharing arrangement with the PDP. This helped the PDP leadership to take high moral ground saying that their party would not have contested the Lok Sabha polls and would have supported NC candidates  if NC leadership had taken them into confidence and told them that their party will field candidates in all the three seats in Kashmir.

Both PDP and NC being the constituents of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) had contested the district development council (DDC) polls in 2020 jointly. Making an announcement to fight the 2024 Lok Sabha elections separately was a very difficult announcement for them since they were claiming working for unity.

May be due to some compulsion or party interests, it was first Dr Farooq Abdullah who at a  media interaction said that NC will contest the parliamentary and assembly elections on its own and would not form any alliance with any political party.

He did not rule out his party going back to BJP led NDA in future. Realising that the line taken by his father is politically dangerous for NC at election time, Omar did the damage control. He ruled out any alliance with the BJP in future and later succeeded in stitching a poll alliance with Congress and keeping away PDP from it.

While trying to understand the changed requirements in changed electoral politics map, NC and  Omar tried to field candidates  who can win  in the present scenario. So far the NC Vice President has been able to tackle the challenges which emerged after the announcement of candidates.

It is to be seen to what extent  his, and that of Dr Farooq Abdullah’s  other moves, and efforts succeed on  the polling days. On his part the NC President is doing his best to ensure victory of NC in all the three seats in Kashmir and finally it is upto the voters whom to elect and whom not to. 

Author is senior editor, Greater Kashmir

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