Srinagar, Dec. 28: Having worsted their chief rival, the PDP, the Abdullahs of the National Conference seemed to have brought competition down to the family dinner table late tonight.
Party patron Farooq Abdullah, it appeared, was challenging the party president and his son, Omar Abdullah, for the top job.
Of course you are talking to the future chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah told a TV channel late tonight, turning on its head the position he had taken earlier in the day when he said he would prefer to be in Parliament, leaving Jammu and Kashmir to be governed by his son.
The NC had projected Farooq Abdullah, who won both Hazratbal and Sonwar in Srinagar by slender margins, as the chief ministerial candidate through the two-month campaign. But as the ascendancy of the NC became apparent this afternoon, the senior Abdullah seemed to concede the top job to his son. I would prefer to be in Parliament, Farooq Abdullah said.
The issue of chief minister is contingent upon talks with coalition partners, Farooq Abdullah said.
The candidacy of Omar Abdullah, who won from Ganderbal, was also backed by suggestions from New Delhi that the Congress favoured a fresh younger face taking over the reins in Jammu and Kashmir.
Sources here said that the prime movers of an alliance between the Congress and the NC were the young generation --- Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah.
As the evening progressed, though, the balance appeared to shift within the ruling clan of the NC itself. Farooq Abdullah, the man who passed on the partys crown to his son nearly a decade ago, began projecting himself as chief minister again at the cost of no other than his son.
It is still anybodys guess whether the father will be able to convince the Congress he is the right man for the job, but tonight, he has jumped into the ring against his son.
There is a history to the father-son rivalry within the NC, although both father and son have consistently denied it. It is well-known, after all, that Farooq Abdullah gave up the presidentship of the NC in favour of his son very reluctantly.
There is no word yet from Omar Abdullah on how he sees the altered ambitions of his father, but the odds are, if the Congress eventually goes for an alliance with the NC, Farooq Abdullah will carry the day and become chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir for a fourth time.