Saleem Akther Malik
National Conference was not just a political party but a name of strong movement that fought for the rights of people of Jammu & Kashmir. At one point in history of the state the whole political discourse was dominated by National Conference and its powerful leader Sheikh Abdullah. Despite witnessing turbulent scenarios after the onset of pro-freedom struggle, National Conference still managed to hold its strong cadre-base and did not disappear.
Amidst the pain and gloom of violent times came the controversial 1996 elections wherein National Conference emerged clear winner despite being pitched against a party of former notorious counter-insurgents, thought to be enjoying greater state support.
When, under Dr Farooq Abdullah the NC regime took over, the state did not witness much brighter days. The era was dubbed as a period of rise of infamous Special Task Force and counter insurgents. Fake encounters became order of the day and thus National Conference from a party of saviours was immediately seen as a party trampling upon the rights of people of Kashmir.
2002, NC received a body blow in elections when it was able to win just 28 seats and more than 50 per cent of its elected members lost and newly formed Peoples Democratic Party grabbed 16 seats, as a result NC preferred to sit in opposition, and we saw the coalition government of PDP and Congress coming up.
2008 summer agitation, dynamics again changed and in the 2008 verdict, NC was able to retain 28 seats and got an opportunity to form coalition government with Congress. Omar Abdullah became the youngest chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir. Many began to state that Omar being young and creative would change the state of affairs towards betterment. But six year down the line, NC has virtually got blown away with just 15 MLAs – its poorest performance ever in recent times.
setbacks and failures made Omar to identify his plight with Charles Dickens’s celebrated lines: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
What has differentiated Omar Abdullah and to some extent Farooq Abdullah from the tall leader like Sheikh Abdullah is that they have simply been under the clout of bad advisors. Be it 2009 Shopian double rape and murder, 2010 summer massacre, Afzal Guru’s hanging and other human rights abuses, Omar Abdullah had been receiving advice from his coterie that made things go bad from worse for him and NC.
He has got those advices from his close advisers that have clearly made controllable situations turn into uncontrollable scenarios. The only crisis situation wherein Omar worked better was recent Kashmir floods and here ironically, no army of advisers followed him. He was all alone seen making right calls. His advisers, spokespersons and close confidantes seem to be hungry for camera-fame rather than giving ideas how to improve position of NC and wasting their time in futile gossips.
It is the crucial juncture of time when Omar Abdullah should really act tough and get the deadwood out of the party and bring persons with ideas into party-fold rather than those who just want cheap fame and offer nothing to party in this hour of crisis.
(The writer is a socio-political activist of Zadibal. The opinion expressed in this write-up are author’s own.)