Without his father — who is getting a kidney transplant in London — by his side Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah faces a tough test in leading the National Conference (NC) in the assembly election. He spoke to HT’s Kashmir bureau chief Toufiq Rashid on anti-incumbency, the BJP making inroads, the devastating floods and his strategy and stakes.
Why did you leave Ganderbal, the traditional Abdullah seat?
I announced it two years ago that I won’t contest from Ganderbal. I am seeking a fresh mandate from Sonawar, my hometown, and Beerwah, my grandmother’s place.
What are the highs of your rule?
Militancy has declined and peace brought in its wake development. We had more than 50 lakh tourists compared to 23 lakh from 2002 to 2008 (during the PDP-Cong rule).
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has remained an unfulfilled promise. Do you expect the Modi government to act on it?
I wanted the ASFPA to be revoked. But those who opposed (the move) cited street agitations in 2008 and 2010 (to stall the revocation). In 2012, they said America is shifting out of Afghanistan, a very dangerous time. Mark my word, ISIS will become the reason for not withdrawing ASFPA now.
Is there an anti-NC mood after the floods?
We will get to know when the vote is counted. Less than 50 people died in the floods. Nobody died of any flood-related disease. You were not very visible during the floods. Why?
I could have stood in the middle of Lal Chowk. How could that have benefied relief operations?
Is the BJP making inroads?
Not possible in our state, especially in Kashmir.
Do you subscribe to BJP’s idea of “Mission 44”?
I love “Mission 44”… sounds like the next Bollywood masala movie.
Are you facing a tough election without your father by your side?
I have to lead the party and keep an eye on my parents’ health. My father is getting a kidney transplant and my mother is the donor. I will miss him because I don’t get to split the burden with anybody else. In my case, it’s me, myself and me alone.