If the gathering was an indication of the show of strength, the opposition National Conference (NC) on Saturday made obvious that it was still a force to reckon with. The NC drove supporters in thousands to Municipal Park, Srinagar to be part of a rally, which the party leaders described as start-on of campaign for the Assembly elections, which are due next year. What exactly made numbers irrelevant was the level of confidence and enthusiasm one could see among the NC supporters. Shouting pro party slogans and dancing to the beating of drums, the show reminded of the party’s heydays, when led by Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah.
The NC cadres and supporters had been dormant for the onslaught they faced in the wake of militancy in Kashmir. A recent statement of Hizbul Mujahideen appreciating NC president Omer Abdullah for his demand to include Syed Salahuddin (Hizb chief) in the peace process between India and Pakistan appears to have brought back the confidence among NC cadres.
“I invite Syed Ali Geelani (head of hard-line faction All Party Hurriyat Conference) to join us. Let us together contest elections and carry a joint fight against New Delhi and Islamabad”, the NC patron and former chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah again struck the emotional chord. The NC patron counseled Geelani that Azadi or Pakistan was not possible. “Let us strive for some respectable way out with one voice. Different voices can’t be heard by anyone”, Farooq Abdullah told a cheering audience.
“I am not pro Pakistan but I want friendship with Pakistan but it possible only India and Pakistan are friends. We should work for peace in region, which is essential for our progress and prosperity”, the NC patron continued. “We want militants also to be included in the dialogue process. If we talk in one voice, it would definitely be heard”, he insisted. Former chief minister however avoided making mention of his party’s much-hyped slogan internal autonomy as if to steer clear of from giving alternatives to Azadi and Pakistan on his own.
Buoyed over the massive participation of people, the NC patron described the rally as party’s initiation of election campaign. “I declare election campaign from this stage. Elections can be held any time next year. We should be ready for it”, Farooq Abdullah said adding, “his party would make a come back in the coming elections”.
“We made some mistakes in our rule but we have been punished for that by voting us out of power”, Omer Abdullah, the son said in a bid to keep continuity with his father. “lekin inn logon ne kia kiya” (but what these people (coalition government) did)? All their promises turned out hollow. Human rights situation has worsened. Power tariff hiked but electricity nowhere. Unemployment problem has assumed serious proportions”, he said. Omer said that the coalition partners had promised government job to one person in each family including the families of slain militants. “What has happened to that promise?”, he asked. Omer alleged that corruption had crossed all limits in the state and seeking explanation on the special grant of Rs.24000crores from the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. “Koi hamein bataye ki pisa kahan gaya (let someone explain where this money has gone”, he asked with audience backing him with a thundering applause.
Several other leaders of the party also addressed the rally, which was held under tight security. All the routes leading to the rally ground had been closed for general traffic, causing inconvenience to common people.