Omar Undecided Whether To Contest From King's Seat In Jammu And Kashmir Assembly

3 September 2014
The New Indian Express
Fayaz Wani

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is still undecided whether to contest from Ganderbal seat (king's constituency) in the forthcoming State Assembly elections. Omar had won 2008 Assembly elections from Ganderbal constituency in central Kashmir after losing 2002 elections from the same seat. Ganderbal was a stronghold of National Conference (NC) and bastion of Abdullah dynasty. It was known as 'king's constituency' as NC's chief ministerial candidate used to contest and get elected to State Assembly from this seat. The Ganderbal seat was represented by ruling National Conference patriarch and former Chief Minister late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1977. It has also been represented by Farooq Abdullah, the three-time chief minister of the State in 1983, 1987 and 1996. The insiders in NC said Omar, who had lost 2002 Assembly elections (his first for J&K Assembly) from the constituency to a PDP's Qazi Mohammad Afzal by 2870 votes, is not interested in contesting from this seat. 'He has fears that he may lose the election from the seat, which can prove to be a major embarrassment for him and his party,' they said adding Omar may contest from Hazratbal or Sonawar constituencies in Srinagar. In the recently held parliamentary elections, PDP had taken a lead of 2913 votes in the constituency. The opposition party got 13220 votes while NC bagged 10307 votes. Political observers said NC is standing on a sticky wicket in the constituency. 'There is a lot of resentment against Omar government for some of its policies including killings and arrest of youth,' they said. 'If the voting pattern of recent Lok Sabha elections is taken into consideration, then opposition PDP is likely to win the seat. But things can change if Omar government announces some more populist measures, especially for the youth.' Omar has recently announced snapping of controversial employment policy, increase in retirement age of government employees from 58 to 60 and reduction of electricity duty by 12 percent. Besides, he has also announced reservation of 5 percent for Pahari-speaking people and 2 percent for OBCs. If Omar decides against contesting from Ganderbal constituency, it will be for the first time in 37 years that none of the Abdullah family members will fight elections from the seat. Owing to uncertainty over Ganderbal constituency, NC has withheld its 4th list of candidates for the Assembly elections. The party has already released names of 62 candidates for the 87-member J&K Assembly, elections to which are likely to be held in November-December.