| People’s Democratic Party’s Pahalgam candidate Mehbooba Mufti at Srinagar. (PTI)
Chandigarh, Oct. 10: He is described as a “non-resident Kashmiri (NRK)” who lives in a palace and cannot even understand the local language.
In Ganderbal, during the run-up to the Assembly polls, his mere mention drew derisive comments. The writing on the wall was clear. Only Omar Abdullah and his father, chief minister Farooq Abdullah, refused to read it.
Anyone who visited Ganderbal while campaigning was on could gauge that the National Conference icon, the projected chief minister, stood to lose. Not because his nearest rival, the People’s Democratic Party’s Qazi Mohammad Afzal, was strong.
Not even because the National Conference fortress — so carefully nurtured by Sheikh Abdullah and then by Farooq — was crumbling and crying for development. But because of the National Conference’s perceived closeness to the BJP. “BJP ke saath haath milakar RSS ka parivar ban gaye hain,” said Nazir Ahmed, a shopkeeper in Behama.
“Non-development is being projected as a reason for the National Conference’s rout. While it is true that the National Conference has done nothing for the state, what rankles in people’s mind is the party’s decision to join the NDA led by the BJP. The BJP is seen as a party that hates Muslims. What made Farooq stick with the BJP after the Gujarat riots was difficult for the people to comprehend. Galat neetiyon ki sahi saza,” said a jubilant Afzal over phone, still unable to digest his victory over “friend” Omar.
While everyone in this constituency glowingly referred to Sonia Gandhi’s statement when she visited the state — “Yeh pradesh ke bhavishya ka chunav hai, aapke zindagi mein roshni lane ka chunav hai” — no one could recall anything uttered by the Abdullahs. “Talk to so and so about your problems,” was all that Farooq offered, even while campaigning. “Not me.” Omar stood silently next to him. “Hum nayi soch layenge,” he simply muttered.
Most people in the constituency also slammed the National Conference for reneging on its promise of more autonomy. The refrain was: “State apna tha, Delhi sarkar apni thi. Phir bhi kuch nahi kiya.” Asked if his party had lost the mandate of the people, Omar said: “Certainly. This is democracy where people can pull one down for failing to deliver the goods.”
Farooq, who will resign as chief minister tomorrow, said: “I bow my head to the verdict of the people.” Omar said he would resign as junior foreign minister from the Central ministry once “Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee returns from abroad”.
But the 32-year-old Essex-born business administration graduate predicted that the Congress-PDP coalition would not last long and said a quarrel had already started between the two on which party would hold the chief ministership. “I don’t want to become a doomsday professor.... But I have always been saying that the problems of the state would worsen with a khichri government.”