Omar Kicks Off Election Campaign

22 October 2008
Daily News & Analysis

Kashmir: The National Conference (NC) on Wednesday ended its hibernation and kicked off the poll campaign from here. This time, however, the party chose to organise a workers’ convention to test the waters before it goes to the public for votes. Around 3,000 people, mostly delegates, gathered at the sports stadium here to listen to Omar Abdullah who kicked off his party’s campaign. This was the first rally organised by a political party in the Valley since the pro-azadi agitation. “We realise that this time campaigning will not be easy. We have to tread a difficult path and we are ready for it. We deliberately chose the workers’ convention to kick-off our campaign. From tomorrow, we will have a full-fledged campaign in villages and other areas,” said the NC president. Unlike in the past, the NC is playing it safe this time. It is trying its best not to annoy the separatists who still have a substantial constituency in Kashmir. “The elections have nothing to do with the Kashmir issue. Polls are just an exercise to solve the people’s day-to-day problems. We can’t wait for a solution to the Kashmir issue to solve the water, employment and other problems solved,” he said, adding that “if they (separatists) would provide people jobs, water, power and other basic amenities, I would be the first to say no to polls.” “I have no objection if they preach poll boycott as long as it remains as a battle of ideas. We will put our case and let them also do the same. But gun and grenades should not be used to instill fear and prevent people from voting,” he said. Omar also took the opportunity to criticise his opponents. “The Centre gave Rs24,000 crore, but there is no development. If we come to power, we will provide unemployment allowance to unemployed youth,” he said. The NC, however, has decided to stand alone in the polls. “We do not believe in coalitions. Our first list of candidates will be released in a day or two,” he said.