NC president and Kashmir’s flamboyant politician Farooq Abdullah lost his first ever election in decades sending the party in tailspin. Tasavur Mushtaq analyzes the star fall
It was a different day in Srinagar’s Gupkar on Friday May 16, where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was scheduled to address media men late afternoon. As we entered the premises, the environs were presenting an unusual look. Few party workers close to NC family were apparently in ‘deep shock’. The drooping shoulders conveyed a message that before the declaration, NC had accepted their sweeping loss in all the three Lok Sabha seats of valley.
The real shock for the party cadres was of NC president, Dr Farooq Abdullah who had till now successfully fought all the elections of his political career. With Dr Abdullah’s loss, NC has for the first time lost its Srinagar stronghold in the Valley.
As visibly ‘perturbed’ Omar came to address media, he was accompanied by his lieutenant Nasir Aslam Wani and city face of NC, Ali Muhammad Sagar. Both the left and right side men of Omar were visibly ‘shattered’. The battery of ‘young blood’ of party was behind the shades of trees.
Omar accepted the defeat as a ‘lesson’, congratulated the winners and said, “voters have spoken.” In a veiled reference of pulling up his senior fellows, Omar said, “my senior cabinet colleagues were not able to manage their constituencies where we got beating.” He added, “We will sit down and see what went wrong.”
But does Omar and his colleagues have enough time to recuperate the loss? He himself is not sure; as he said, “Though the task is huge, we will try to set things right. But it surely is difficult.” Not only this, now Omar and his men has to see the prospectus of being coalition partner of Congress, which immediately after the results termed the results as, “anti NC wave and in no way pro PDP wave.” Though Omar was cautious to say a word about Congress as he feels that “what to expect from Congress when segments represented by veterans of his party did not perform well.”
Karra defeated Dr Abdullah with a margin of 42280 votes. Karra bagged 157923 votes while the NC president got 115643 votes after 25 rounds of counting. Dr Abdullah’s last stint in Parliament was when he was polled 147035 votes and emerged winner. Pertinently Karra had fought 2008 assembly elections unsuccessfully and lost to NC’s Irfan Ahmad Shah from Batmaloo constituency.
Karra defeated Dr Abdullah with a margin of 42280 votes.
Over three decades of stint in politics, Dr Abdullah’s entry into politics was “quite late in his life”. Being son of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the journey was not difficult for him to secure the top position in the party after demise of his father in 1982.
In just one year after, Dr Abdullah assumed the chair of Chief Minister in 1983. He had not smooth run, but came under sharp criticism. Political squabbles between the NC, the then dominant political outfit in the State and the Congress government in New Delhi, saw the dismissal of two State governments. While Dr Abdullah’s government was dismissed in 1984, his successor brother-in-law, Ghulam Mohammad Shah’s government was dismissed in 1986.
Dr Abdullah did not succumb. He concluded an accord with then Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, under which the Congress and the NC formed an alliance to contest the State Assembly elections, held in 1987. But as the armed struggle broke out, which many believe was ‘outcome of rigging’, his government was dismissed and Kashmir was brought under the President rule.
With this halt in civilian government, it was Dr Abdullah who reclaimed chair of CM in 1996 amid the ‘shadow of gun’ at the peak of militancy. The political commentators give credit to Dr Abdullah and say, “He was the man who set up the derailed political process back on track in the valley.” They further added that “If Farooq would have denied to contest, the power would have gone to dreaded counterinsurgent Kukka Parrey.”
In same year of 1996 it was reported that, “the single most event that ensured recent ascendancy of the NC was the emergence of Dr Abdullah as a political tactician in April 1996.” With tears in eyes during the swearing in ceremony at Srinagar’s SKICC, Dr Abdullah much to surprise of many had all praises for India instead of saying a word for all those who till that day had lost their lives in the conflict.
Being in Power, Dr Abdullah decided to boycott the parliamentary elections. He chose the boycott for the reasons which had primarily to do with his “zero degree of trust” in the governing Congress Party. He later for a moment fell for the “sky is the limit on autonomy” theme from Congress, but soon recovered to propose his own “1953” slogan.
What went wrong for a person who has “grown from a motorcycle enthusiast to a serious politician?”—that he lost the seat which his party has represented nine out of eleven times. NC has won the seat every time barring 1971 and 1996 when the party did not contest the polls. The questions seem unending when especially major chunk of votes were polled in bastion of NC, Kangan 65.5 per cent, followed by Chari-e-shrief where 65 per cent votes were polled.
Sources that are in the know of NC party affairs believed that this is result of NC’s disconnect with the people at ground level which made “Dr Abdullah to taste first defeat of his life”. The claim that senior party leaders preferred not to be active campaigners could not be rejected as Omar Abdullah did make mention that, “senior colleagues failed to manage their constituencies despite some good work being done”.
As per the details available, the eight segments of Srinagar, which are all represented by NC this time, did the reverse. The only positive for Dr Abdullah came from Habba Kadal and Khanyar.
Political observers opine the “crude and forced” transition is the reason of NC’s “brutal assault”. According to insiders, the heat is brewing up in NC camp as senior members feel sidelined by Omar Abdullah.
Besides what is happening within the party, informed sources told Kashmir Life, it is NC’s alliance with Congress that made loss for the party “miserable”. The old cadre says that Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah had repeatedly said that “Congress wale gandi naaali ke keede hai,” then how come now NC can be comfortable with them.
Once a good hand and now a bed-ridden NC loyal, on condition of anonymity, said, “NC was name of a movement and now the man in charge (Omar) has made it a friendly affair with Rahul Gandhi. He has paid the price.”
He further said that, “Omar could not take his grass root workers, party supporters and senior colleagues along.”
Omar while talking to media said, “now it is up to party leadership, who they want to be next candidate for the CM.” But the political analysts say who is there to take decision as the party is run by “Nasir Aslam in Kashmir and Devinder Singh Rana in Jammu.”
Though Omar claims that the defeat is not end of NC, but what observers believe is that the loss for Dr Abdullah who at 78 years of age is at the fag end of his career is “almost end to his career”. Not only this, the much claimed ‘semi-final’ of Omar Abdullah is going to have its impact in coming assembly election. The first question arises: will Omar first regain the “faith” among the party workers? Then comes what he can do to retain the chair which was handed over to him as legacy to carry forward.