Struggling Survivors

Out of ten CMs that J&K had so far, the four surviving ones are facing different challenges in their own ways. Shah Abbas analyzes their individual struggle in the light of on-going political stalemate in the state  

4-CMs-of-JKWith uncertainty looming over political landscape of conflict-ridden Kashmir post 2014 state assembly elections, the four living former Chief Ministers are struggling with four different situations.

While former CM and National Conference’s (NC) working president Omar Abdullah is trying hard to stay relevant in Kashmir politics post his party’s record dismal performance, his predecessor and Gandhi family loyalist Ghulam Nabi Azad is lobbying to salvage his political career by securing a berth in Rajya Sabha.

On the other hand, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Mohammad Syeed is desperate to create a new “ism” out of the ambiguous secularism and alleged communalism to become CM for the second time. After introducing Congress in Valley, Mufti is trying hard to dilute the “second possible mistake” by leading Hindu nationalists into Kashmir.

And NC’s famous face and happy-go-lucky man Dr Farooq Abdullah, is recovering a kidney transplant in UK and awaiting second major operation post his maiden defeat in 2014 Lok Sabah elections.

The state has experienced as many as ten Chief Ministers so far including Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, G M Sadiq, Shamasdin, Mir Qasim, G M Shah, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Omar Abdullah.

Omar Abdullah

Dr Farooq Abdullah’s first election defeat and illness proved costly for his son Omar Abdullah who tries to stay relevant by his tweets.

Omar keeps media as well as his political opponents busy entire day by posting single liners every morning on the micro blogging site Twitter.

However, Omar is facing a very tough situation as his forefather’s party – The National Conference – is going through its worst times. The historical and the cadre based party, like Jama’at-e-Islami, has been squeezed to mere 15 seats in the recently held elections.

Omar, in fact, has to reorganise a party which according to an insider “has reached to a record low” during his tenure.

But in the meantime, as declared earlier, Omar is doing everything in his capacity to make it “uneasy” for PDP to share power with BJP. And in order to achieve that, Omar has already started contributing to the ongoing debate of “an ideological sell-out”. The debate has the capacity to rout PDP in the Muslim majority Kashmir.

A possible leader of the opposition in the 12th legislative assembly, Omar, sitting in his “palace” at Gupkar – which is named after him – is outlining policy to give tough time to any possible PDP-BJP alliance.

But reorganizing NC from its present situation is not going to be easy for Omar as most of the senior party leaders lost recent elections and are cooling their heels. According to party sources, Omar is nervous after PDP made its inroads into NC’s strong hold i.e. Srinagar district.

Keeping the family traditions alive, Omar too was crowned by his father, Farooq in June 2002 in an attractive function at a park in Srinagar named after his grandfather. He started his political innings under the patronage of the Hindu Nationalists as NC was an ally of the then NDA. Omar enjoyed MoS berth in the Ministry of External Affairs during the Vajpayee regime which demonstrated him as a “show boy from Kashmir” on the international stage.

However, Omar lost his very first assembly election from his ancestral Ganderbal segment to PDP’s Qazi Mohammad Afzal in 2002.

Fearing a repeat, Omar decided to contest from Beerwah and Sonwar instead in 2014. He lost from Sonwar, however, became the MLA of Beerwah, by not a considerable margin of votes.

The only netsavy politician of the state, Omar got to the throne of chief minister in late 2008 by the support of Congress and he was projected as “hope” by the then UPA. He however faced very tough situations in 2009, 2010 and 2013 due to the alleged dual rape and murder case of Asia & Neelofar in Shopian, a strong civilian uprising and the killings of 125 people mostly students by the hands of the men in uniform and the hanging of the parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru.  And the “hope” was dashed to ground when NC and Congress vanished in the Lok Sabha elections and PDP and BJP shared three seats each from J&K.

Omar is accused by his opponents of not doing much about the revocation of AFSPA, registering cases in the 2010 killings and saving Guru during his term in the office. They even allege him of being involved in the Syed Yousuf death case. The case was however probed through a judicial enquiry which gave Omar a clean chit.

Ghulam Nabi Azad

The most loyal person to Gandhi and Nehru family on the soil of Jammu and Kashmir is now struggling to retain his Rajya Sabha seat.

The man who was a matchless leader from the entire Chenab Valley till recent past is presently facing a threat to his political career.

Having only 12 seats in J&K Assembly, it is not easy for Congress to get him re-elected in the Rajya Sabha elections scheduled next month. Azad’s only hope is Omar, but since the two leaders were engaged in verbal dual during recent campaigning, it too seems very difficult.

But seeing an end to the political career of her most loyal person and her “crisis manager”, sources said Congress president Sonia Gandhi has herself jumped in to “save” him.

After virtual surrender before Modi magic by not contesting in the assembly elections Azad is facing the toughest time of his career. He got defeated in the last Lok Sabha elections on his home turf by a huge margin of 60,976 votes.

To many political pundits, Azad is irrelevant now after staying in the limelight for 12 years. It was he who used to run the show in J&K.

After facing defeat on the onset of his political career (in 1970), Azad eventually contested three state assembly elections from his hometown and won two – in 2002 and 2008.

A post graduate in Zoology, Azad started his political career as block secretary of Congress committee in Blessa, Doda. In 1977, he was nominated as the General Secretary of All India Youth Congress. Eventually at the age of 31, Azad rose up to become the first Muslim president of the All India Youth Congress. Finally Azad assumed the chair of CM in 2005 and ruled the state till mid 2008.

The same year J&K witnessed massive agitations in Jammu and Kashmir regions. In Kashmir it was against a government order of granting forest land to Amarnath Shrine board and an economic blockade of the valley and in Jammu it was against valleyites. Worth to mention that more than 60 unarmed people were killed by the hands of the men in uniform in Kashmir while as no such kind of death was reported from Jammu. Police did not even register cases against those arrested in the Jammu region while as thousands of Kashmiri people still face the cases registered in 2008 agitation.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed

The most experienced politician’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) emerged as the single largest party in the recently held elections. Its patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is busy through his “authorised” people negotiating a deal with the right wing BJP to reach the throne for the second time.

Given BJP’s Kashmir agenda, the possible alliance is a cause of concern for Mufti. He is trying BJP to “soften” its stand about Kashmir which is aimed at diluting the State Subject Law, Article 370, granting citizenship rights to the West Pakistani Refugees etc so as to use elections a tool of integration and “winning” the restive state.

This surely is giving Mufti sleepless nights ever since he chose not to head a “municipal” government. Mufti has to face not only a constituency comprised of Muslim population of the state, especially the valley, but he also desires to erase every negative aspect of his personality by availing the CM ship.

According to many analysts, 79-year-old Mufti, who successfully introduced Congress in Kashmir, has to take into consideration the future of his party and daughter, Mehbooba Mufti as well before negotiating a deal with BJP.

Mufti took the state Congress’ reins in 1975, the year of Indira- Abdullah Accord.

In 1986, Mufti was appointed as Union Minister for Tourism in the ministry of Rajiv Gandhi’s government but he resigned before completing his full term.

He later resigned from the Congress in 1987 and joined VP Singh’s Janta Dal. In 1989 Mufti became India’s first ever Muslim Home Minister. By the time militancy erupted Mufti sent Jagmohan as Governor of the state.

Mufti again joined the Congress during Narasimha Rao’s rule. He however, along with his daughter founded his own J&K People’s Democratic Party in 1999 to stay relevant in the local politics.

Mufti’s PDP secured 16 seats in its very first attempt in 2002. The party allied with the Congress and Mufti became CM up to 2005. The party added 5 to its kitty in 2008 and now it has reached to 28 in the 2014 elections leaving behind NC, the party which at one point of time had raised the slogan “Muftyen Qabar, Kasheer-e-Nebar” (Mufti’s grave, outside Kashmir).

Dr Farooq Abdullah

After ruling the state thrice in 1984, 1987 and 1996, Dr Farooq Abdullah lost his first ever political battle to PDP’s Tariq Hamid Karra in 2014 Lok Sabah elections. Interestingly, Karra was Farooq’s loyalist and main campaigner during 2008 Lok Sabah elections.

However, 78-year-old Farooq’s first political defeat proved detrimental for him as he skipped the state elections on health issues.

Farooq did not even lead the poll campaign for his party and went to London where his wife Molly, a nurse of British origin lives. Farooq later underwent Kidney transplant surgery. It was his wife Molly who reportedly donated her kidney to Farooq.  Farooq is nowadays preparing for the second surgery overseas.

Known for his controversial statements, Farooq was crowned by his father Sher-e-Kashmir (The Lion of Kashmir), on August 21, 1981 as his successor. A massive gathering witnessed the crowning ceremony held at Iqbal Park, in Srinagar. Farooq led the state after winning 1984 elections but was dethroned by his brother-in-law, GM Shah. He followed the footprints of his father in building relations with New Delhi. He went into an agreement with the then Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi and managed to win 1987 elections. The then NC-Congress alliance won amid allegations of fraud. NC again won an overwhelming majority in 1996 elections under the leadership of Farooq after a prolonged governor’s rule when his party was instrumental to make the much hyped “anti-insurgency political process” a success. It was during this election Farooq had the support of the dreaded counter insurgents like Kuka Parray who helped his party win 57 seats.

Known for his sense of humour, the NC president’s lone political qualification is being son of the tallest political figure of the state whose decisions continue to pay for its inhabitants by one or the other ways. He has candidly admitted many times that he could have been either a singer or actor, if not a politician.

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