August 2002 News

Itís final: Omar will be NC CM, team remains same

22 August 2002
The Indian Express
Muzamil Jaleel

Srinagar: It''s final. Farooq Abdullah is winding up his role in state politics, leaving the field to Omar Abdullah, who will be the ruling National Conferenceís chief ministerial candidate. But if the party returns to power in October ó going by all indications and circumstances, that may very well happen ó he will be leading the same old herd. His revamp plans have been put on the backburner. According to sources, Farooq is heading for the exit, resisting pressure from the partyís old guard to stay on. The decision was taken at a recent meeting of the NCís parliamentary committee. According to the sources, it was this decision that forced the junior Abdullah to slow down his revamp plans and let the strong old guard have its say in the nominations. He wished to avoid a confrontation, at least for now. The old guard is deeply suspicious of the junior Abdullah, a compliment that Omar returns in full measure. And if he had his way, he would have replaced quite a few candidates with younger faces. The biggest controversy was over Lolab constituency where the junior Abdullah wanted to replace Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mushtaq Ahmad Lone with Nasir Sogami, who is his personal representative in his Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. Lone, however, had the backing of a strong lobby in the party leadership, which included Education Minister Mohammad Shafi Uri and Finance Minister Abdul Raheem Rather. Kupwara, too, had sparked off a row. Here, Omar was reportedly was against retaining the sitting MLA, Saifullah Mir. The frontrunner in this constituency was a senior NC leader and former minister Ghulam Qadir Mir, whose son is Omarís private secretary in the external affairs ministry. However, the party prevailed. The elevation of Omar to the NCís top post in May this year had led to a shift in the traditional balance of power in the party. Omar has been making it clear that he would not join a government led by his father because ĎĎhe does not want to have two power centresíí. He will, according to the sources, contest from Ganderbal, traditionally represented by the NCís senior leaders, replacing his father. Where will Farooq go? The sources say Omar wants him to go to the Rajya Sabha.


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