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Farooq Abdullah's poll hurdles begin at home

May 04, 2009 16:02 IST

More than indecision, it's Farooq Abdullah's estranged family and friends that could make his run for Lok Sabha difficult.

The 72-year-old National Conference chief, known for his fondness for the big life and golfing in London, has been on election mode almost for six months now. He contested the Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls in December last year and then resigned to run for Rajya Sabha. He has since decided to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Srinagar.

Abdullah was first elected to Lok Sabha in 1980 and that too unopposed. Much water has flown down River Jhelum since and this time he is up against his estranged sister Khalida, whose husband G M Shah had installed himself chief minister after ousting Abdullah in a midnight coup, and one-time friend Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari.

The National Conference (NC) is very sure about its victory from Srinagar with Abdullah in the fray, although political observers admit that Ansari is capable of producing an upset. Ansari, 69, had given a stiff competition to Abdullah's mother, Akbar Jehan in 1977.

Khalida, 73, had proposed to fight Abdullah in last year's assembly polls but had withdrawn her candidature. This is Khalida's maiden election. Abdullah did not wish to comment on his elder sister jumping into the fray against him saying it is democracy, everyone has the right to fight elections.

However, Awami National Conference (ANC) candidate Khalida said, "I am not fighting against a party or an individual but against wrong policies of the previous MPs and injustice done to the people of Kashmir."

She alleged that nobody has raised voice in Parliament about the situation of Kashmir in the past.

"If the people give us a chance, we will raise voice in and outside the Parliament. I am sure after getting the true picture of the situation, people of India will also support our cause," she said.

Asked if her decision to contest against Abdullah would further sour the relations, she added, "The cause of the nation comes first. When the nation is safe, the family will automatically become safe."

Khalida claimed that fortunes of the NC are on decline because of the wrong decisions made by the party leadership.

Asked about her chances of winning in view of the drubbing faced by ANC in assembly polls, Khalida said she won't escape for contesting election due to defeat.

"Just because we lost one elections, does not mean that we are going to flee from the field," she said, adding her party has aligned with the Third Front at the national level.

They have promised to tackle the issues faced by the people of Jammu and Kashmir and that's why the party has aligned with them, she said.

There is likely to be a tough fight between Abdullah and PDP's Ansari, with NC having an edge in the constituency spread over three districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam and comprising of 15 assembly segments.

NC established its supremacy in the assembly elections held last year as it had captured 12 out of the 15 seats.

While two seats were bagged by PDP, another went to President of Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) Hakeem Mohammad Yasin.

Ansari is banking on votes of Shia community, who are a force to reckon with in the constituency and also on the anti-NC voters.

In the last assembly elections, PDP secured two seats and were placed second in almost all the remaining 13 seats of the constituency.

In the 2004 lok sabha elections, Omar Abdullah of NC defeated his PDP rival Ghulam Nabi Lone by a margin of 23,169 votes.

The city usually witness low turnout which was evident in the last year's assembly elections when only 21.93 per cent of the 5.60 lakh electorate cast their votes.

PDP claims that Abdullah has already lost his magic and that his presence can not make much difference this time. However, the NC leaders described PDP's observations as baseless and unrealistic saying that their president continues to enjoy popularity among the people.

Abdullah's two victories in the assembly polls, his recent entry into Rajya Sabha and formation of coalition government headed by NC seems to have raised the morale of NC activists.

Even though he is not the Chief Minister, Abdullah is working hard to strengthen the party, NC workers said. Party insiders said Abdullah had to contest Lok Sabha polls as there was no consensus in the party for fielding any other candidate. This may benefit the opponents.

Whatever may the reason but the decision to field Abdullah has surely increased the party's chances of victory, observers say.

In 1967 elections, Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency was represented by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad of NC while in 1971 midterm poll, the constituency was represented by NC-backed independent Shamim Ahmad Shamim. Begum Akbar Jehan of NC won the seat in 1977 elections.

In 1984 elections, Abdul Rashid Kabuli of NC retained it and in 1989, Mohammad Shafi Bhat of the party was declared elected uncontested.

In 1996 elections, when NC boycotted the polls, the seat went to Ghulam Mohammad Mir of the Congress. However, in 1998 and 1999 the constituency was won by Omar Abdullah.

A M Sofi in Srinagar
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