Why is Abdullah invoking separatism

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National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah  returned to the political scene in Valley just two months into the current unrest and true to his reputation he has  already generated a lot of noise, even while he may not have catapulted National Conference back into the political reckoning. His campaign has not attracted people but he has forced media to take notice of him through deeply controversial statements, one of which was telling New Delhi bluntly that “PoK was not its father’s property”.

 

On the occasion of the 111th death anniversary of his father, the legendary Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah,  a charged up Abdullah pushed the envelope a bit further, telling Hurriyat he was with them in their struggle. He also exhorted his workers to support the Hurriyat-led movement in Kashmir. And Abdullah, once again, took on New Delhi, saying its oppression won’t crush the struggle in Kashmir.

 

However, Abdullah gameplan is very familiar in Valley and thus  fewer people have leapt to the bait. His return to the active politics in the state has, however, been a calculated move: an attempt to wade into the space vacated by the ruling  PDP, rendered a political pariah for its role in the killings during the current turmoil.  And this Abdullah has tried to do by straddling Valley’s mainstream-separatist divide much like PDP was wont to do and by riding the crest of the prevailing heightened separatist sentiment by taking on New Delhi and obliquely associating NC with Hurriyat. 

 

And only Abdullah could accomplish this tough assignment because of his fluency in Kashmiri language which his son Omar Abdullah lacks and because of his knack to connect with the masses, a skill which Omar has yet to master. 

 

Another major reason for Abdullah’s return is the upcoming Parliament bye-election on two seats – Anantnag and Srinagar – vacated by PDP: the former by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the latter by Tariq Hameed Karra, who recently resigned in protest against the government excesses in Kashmir in response to the unrest that broke out following the killing of the adored militant commander Burhan Wani. 

 

Abdullah is likely to be the NC candidate from the summer capital Srinagar, a prestigious seat where he was resoundingly defeated by Karra in the last election. Soon afterwards Abdullah disappeared from Kashmir’s political scene, in between heading to London for his kidney-replacement surgery, only to return now to fight his way back into favour. And if his current politics is anything to go by, he is leaving nothing to chance, even appealing to the extreme secessionist sentiment to rid her party of its pro-New Delhi image, a political liability in Kashmir. 

However, unlike the last time, the odds are in favour of Abdullah. His invocation of secessionism may not carry conviction in Kashmir but the drastic dent to PDP’s credibility will certainly help his cause. Once again, the victory of a mainstream politician may be due less  to the public faith in his politics and more because he is the default option in a contest where one party has run out of favour. 

 

  

 

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