The Historic Fall Of Abdullahs In Srinagar

17 May 2014
Authint Mail
Ishrat Bashir

Srinagar: By early afternoon on Friday, the trends trickling out of the counting rooms set up inside the picturesque Sher-e- Kashmir convention centre on the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar had set out the course of a political wave that was soon going to sweep Kashmir. The currents had breached the frontiers from Kashmir's north to south, slowly but surely, merging in the centre of Valley where the ruling party clung to a glimmer of hope, of the victory of their grand old man. But the results emerging for Kangan warned of the storm that lay ahead. The writing was on the wall for Kashmir's oldest political party, the National Conference, and the Abdullah family. From the days of Begum Akbar Jehan, the late wife of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, founder of National Conference, Abdullahs have never lost the Srinagar parliamentary constituency in the party's long electoral history. Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah entered the Indian parliament through the gates of Srinagar. But unexpected realities are part of the electoral process. The victory on 15-segment parliament constituency of the central Kashmir which paved way for the formation of National Conference government in J&K after 2008 assembly elections and sent senior Abdullah to the parliament where he rose to the level of union minister next year, has scripted a shocking result for the party this time. Of the 15 assembly constituencies on which the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency seat is spread, the National Conference had lost 11 by late Friday afternoon. And when the counting was over in Charari Sharief segment, the National Conference workers at the counting centre conceded defeat to an upbeat Tariq Hameed Karra of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party. The fort had been breached. The Abdullahs realized it too. Farooq kept himself confined to his Gupkar residence and did not utter a word on his defeat. A 'shocked' Omar Abdullah said the party expected to win at least one seat. He was talking about Srinagar, though he didn't mention it. Even the predictions of political pundits had failed as National Conference lost all the three parliament seats to the PDP. In Srinagar, the margin of the defeat, 42280, would have left the National Conference's legislators speechless - Karra polled 157923 votes while as senior Abdullah bagged 115643 votes. In total, the constituency polled 312212 votes. It is not the collective defeat on all the three parliamentary constituencies in Kashmir. What must hurt National Conference badly was that the party lost to the PDP in the assembly segments which have a history of voting largely for Abdullah family like Kangan and Charari Sharief. In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Abdullah, the three-time chief minister of J&K and five-time MP, had secured a lead of more than 25000 votes, winning the elections by around 29000 votes. This time too, the two constituencies with the potential to decide the fate of the election were under the radar of every eye from the opposite camps. The voters exhibited their potential, but on unexpected lines, handing over a lead of over 9000 to PDP, and a clear message to senior Abdullah whose political career is over 42 years old now. Even Omar Abdullah conceded a lead of 2913 votes to Tariq Karra in Ganderbal assembly constituency represented by him in the state legislature. While Ganderbal district rejected National Conference, Srinagar district gave them a huge set back as Karra - he started his political career from Awami National Conference and rose to the level of finance minister in the last PDP-Congress government - won five of the eight assembly constituencies from the district, hence making inroads into the key district held for long by the National Conference. 'People have voted for the change,' Karra said in his statement soon after he was declared the winner, 'We will not let them down.' The Budgam too added to National Conference's miseries. The Khan Sahab constituency of the district represented by Hakim Muhammad Yasin played a spoiler for Kashmir's grand old party. Yasin's loyalists numbered in around 25000 boycotted elections in anger against National Conference for not keeping its promise of giving a cabinet berth to Yasin in return for his support to Farooq Abdullah in 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Their support handed over a clear edge to PDP which secured a safe lead of 9742 votes, only to add to its winning margin. The party lost to Karra in all five constituencies of the central Kashmir district. 'This defeat (in Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency) will hurt National Conference badly,' said a renowned political analyst, 'It was the face of the party for decades but a wipe out will give rise to questions, many of them.' Will National Conference legislators, some of them cabinet ministers, pay price for the defeat of the party patron? At a close-door meeting of the senior National Conference leaders at party headquarters in Srinagar, Nawai Subh, Omar had categorically said that only those candidates would be given a mandate for the legislative assembly elections scheduled in November this year who would secure lead for the party from their respective constituencies. But Omar has himself lost from his constituency to PDP this time. How will the party evaluate the loss, only time will tell.