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 fathers 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 wont 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 Valleys 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 Abdullahs 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 Kashmirs 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 PDPs 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.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.