Following father's illness, Omar to fight a tough election alone
Just a day before the schedule for assembly elections was announced chief minister Omar Abdullah had left for London.
The junior Abdullah has been frequently visiting Britain in the wake of his father's treatment.
National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah, according to party sources, has been suffering from kidney ailment and will undergo surgery in a few days. The treatment, sources say, will take time, leaving the not so popular Omar to fight a very tough elections on his own.
"Farooq Sahib has to undergo a kidney transplant, surgery is scheduled this week," said Mustafa Kamal, Farooq's brother and party general secretary.
Less than a month to the polls, the party is yet to decide the name of candidates for major constituencies, including the one for chief minister Omar Abdullah. The NC has announced the name of candidates in three separate lists, but the candidature for important constituencies, including Ganderbal, Sonawar, Hazratbal, Zadibal and Tangmarg, are yet to be made public.
According to sources, Omar who had contested from Ganderbal in central Kashmir in the 2008 assembly elections is yet to decide on his constituency and may instead try his luck in Sonawar, another stronghold of the party. Ganderbal is going to polls on November 25.
The elections become an uphill task following the heightened anti-NC sentiments in the state following the devastating floods which hit the state in the first week of September. Moreover, the NC is going to polls with a baggage of the defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.
Out of the six parliamentary seats, the BJP had managed to get three in the Hindu majority Jammu division, while the People's Democratic Party (PDP) had won all three in the Valley. The NC-Congress coalition had no show in the Lok Sabha polls and even the big names, which included two former union ministers Ghulam Nabi Azad and Farooq Abdullah, lost their seats. The loss was first election defeat for Abdullah in his political career.
The family rules out senior Abdullah's participation in the coming elections. "Farooq Sahib has supporters across the state. They love him and will make sure the party wins," Kamal added.
While party insiders feel senior Abdullah's absence may have a negative impact on the voters, independent observers feel a generation shift is necessary. "Farooq Abdullah's absence will matter as there is a section who is still loyal to him. Having said that Omar Abdullah has matured as a leader in the last few years. He was virtually running the party himself," said professor Gul Wani, head of department (HoD) Political Science. "Even during the Lok Sabha elections, Farooq Abdullah did not campaign as much though he was a candidate himself," he added.
Wani feels that even as people are not satisfied with the government's response to the floods and subsequent relief and rehabilitation measures post-floods, the chief minister has managed to give a different picture.
"Though National Conference's chances in the coming elections are very bleak, Omar has managed to give an impression that he was struggling," Wani added.