June 2002 News

Omar Abdullah elected NC president

22 June 2002
The Times of India

Srinagar: Over 10,000 delegates from all parts of Jammu and Kashmir have thronged the Sher-i-Kashmir cricket stadium where a special session of the National Conference formally elected Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah as the next party president. Abdullah arrived at the venue at 9:30 am dressed in a black sherwani, white turban and garlands around his neck as the party delegates shouted slogans hailing him. His father and current party president Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, immediate family members, and senior party executives are attending the one-day extraordinary session. The session began with chanting of verses from the Holy Quran, Bhagwad Gita, Guru Granth Sahib, Bible and also Buddhist prayers. Senior NC leader G N Shaheen welcomed the delegates, which was followed by unfurling of the party''s flag by the father-son duo. The party anthem was played to loud cheers and flag waving by the delegates, followed by ''Sare Jahan se Accha''. Party general secretery Shiekh Nazir Ahmed, while presenting the annual report, charged successive governments at the Centre of ''trying to finish'' the party since 1983. The change takes place in the backdrop of both father and son adopting aggressive posturing over the Centre not naming Farooq as the presidential candidate. Security has been beefed up in and around the stadium to avert any militant attack at a time when the entire NC cadre would be present to witness the ceremony. According to sources, the party high command had instructed every minister to accommodate about 600 to 800 delegates. NC general secretary Shiekh Nazir Ahmad said delegates had been asked to deposit Rs 1,100 as boarding and lodging charges. Still, sources said, the ministers would be spending from their own resources on the comfortable stay of the delegates here. According to party sources, Omar was going to sermonise party delegates and also convey to the Centre his unhappiness over his father not being considered for the post of President of the country. According to Omar, Farooq had helped India at various levels during difficult times, particularly in setting the human rights record straight in front of the Geneva Commission on rights. Farooq has already resigned as party president to pave the way for his son to take over as the head of the party without much difficulty. Although he has hinted that he would take rest after Omar takes over as party president, sources close to the family ruled out any such possibility without his being suitably adjusted at the Centre. The NC is considered to be the only mass- based political party in Jammu and Kashmir. Despite the threat militants pose to party activists, the party has about 20 lakh members spread over the state, according to Nazir Ahmad.


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