From the banks of Wular Lake at Bandipora speaking in the back drop of polls to four Legislative counsel seats, Omar Abdullah in a language of love said : “Dar and Monga are my candidates, Farooq Abdullah’s Candidates. Rahul Gandhi’s Candidates & Sonia ji’s candidates”. The demonstration of love was such as it appeared that the two parties are about to merge.
I am reminded of a famous public speech of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah in Lal Chowk after Indira – Sheikh accord in 1975. On the advice of Sheikh, Indira Gandhi was taken in a Shikara procession through river Jhelum from Zero Bridge to Chattabal. After her stay for a day or so, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah made a famous public speech in Lal Chowk and asked people to reject her proposal of merging the National Conference into Congress. There was uproar among the people for an hour and the rejection was loud and clear. NC and Congress has long history of love – hate relations. The two never lived happily, yet never divorced each other. It was at Lal Chowk that Jawaharalal Nehru unfurled the national flag in 1948. It was here that he promised Kashmiris a referendum to choose their political future. It was in this Lal Chowk that Sheikh Abdullah announced his love for Jawaharlal Nehru and India in a Persian couplet saying “Man Tu Shudam, Tu Man Shudi, Ta Kas Na Goyed Bad Azeen, Man Degram Tu Degri (I became you and You became me; so none can say we are separate)”. Soon, after Sheikh resisted the application of provisions of Indian Constitution to Jammu & Kashmir, he was arrested as Prime Minister at the hands of Pandith Jawaharlal Nehru on 9th Aug 1953. Sheikh suffered for long in jails and had developed hatred for Congress. On his release by G.M. Sadiq in 1968 he appealed for social boycott against “Congress men” and even called them “Creatures of Gutter”. Then he was running “Plebiscite Front” challenging the state’s accession to union of India. Later in 1972 on 8th March he again showed olive branch to New Delhi when in an interview to “London Times” he said “there is no quarrel with the Government of India about accession but, It is over the structure of internal autonomy”. Indira Gandhi was quick to respond to the changed mind set of Sheikh, which resulted into Indira – Sheikh accord. Sheikh agreed to be the Chief Minister with the support of Congress. After emergency in 1977 when Indira Gandhi lost, Congress withdrew the support. Congress humiliated him again and he had to resign.
Making autonomy as poll plank, Sheikh won the 1977 elections with a thumping majority. After his death, in 1983 elections Farooq Abdullah declined the Indira Gandhi’s offer for pre-poll alliance and he won the elections with 46 seats. Congress punished him in 1984 by managing a split in the party and making his brother in law as the Chief Minister with Congress support. G.M. Shah in the state assembly also sung a song in love of Congress, I quote “Sou saal pehlay mujay tum say pyar tha, aaj bi hay our kal bi rahay ga”. Even this love lasted only for 18 months.
Subsequently as a result of Rajiv – Farooq Accord, with pre-poll alliance of 1987 elections, failed ballots gave birth to the bullets and the state is in great turmoil since then. Now the National Conference after having got reduced to a mere 28 seats in successive elections in 2002 and 2008, to remain in power, the third generation leadership, is building up new Omer – Rahul friendship relations. National Conference had a glorious past and is heading for a bleak future. In the constituent assembly elections in 1951, of the 75 seats, National Conference won 73 un-opposed . In famous 1977 elections it won 47 seats with 46% of votes polled, in 1983 it also won 46 seats with 47% votes. Ever since it had alliance with Congress in 1987, there has been a decline in the popularity of National Conference with vote share having gone down as low as 28% and 23% in 2002 and 2008 as compared to 46% and 47% of vote share in 1977 and 1983 elections respectively.
The National Conference having remained in opposition for six years could not improve upon its tally in 2008 elections. Now after being in power for last four years, asking for Grand Alliance with Congress in 2014 polls is a self confession of non performance, with not having grown its share of votes over a last decade. Coalitions are suicidal for the independent growth of a political party. Congress used to be a non entity particularly in Kashmir but for failures of National Conference, Congress has emerged as a power broker. As the Saif -u-din Soz often states, that no Government is possible in Jammu & Kashmir without Congress. In politics, it is not the power but the political popularity which is most important. This is what Omer Abdullah needs to realise and also keep patience to listen to his uncle Sheikh Mustafa Kamal.
--Ab Qayoom Khan (IFS) Rtd. is member All India Muslim Majlis - e- Mushawarat. New Delhi. Feedback at [email protected]