NC leaders’ visit to Ganderbal turns sour

A planned move of National Conference  to gauge mood and to test waters in the home turf of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah—Ganderbal district of Central Kashmir—ahead of crucial Assembly polls Tuesday turned out to be a sour one as the party activists were seen divided over the mandate issue. The NC leaders, however, downplayed the development stating that they were buoyed to see the “NC’s strong base intact.”
The development assumes significance given the fact that NC continues to postpone its decision as to wherefrom Omar would contest the upcoming assembly polls.
According to party insiders, majority of the NC cadres were of the opinion that Omar should not change his turf and in addition he may try his luck from Sonwar as well to ensure safe passage.  But today, senior NC leaders including party General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar, Forest Minister Mian Altaf and provincial president Kashmir, Nasir Aslam Wani, had to face major disappointment over the “open division” between the supporters of Omar and Ishfaq Jabbar in Ganderbal.
The NC leaders had organized a one-day convention of party activists in a bid to raise their morale at party headquarters Ganderbal. The function was, however, not open for media.
Reliable sources revealed that the division between the supporters of Omar and Ishfaq was evident inside. “A major group of NC activists demanded mandate for Ishfaq. They also threatened to boycott the upcoming assembly polls, if party leadership denies him the mandate,” sources, privy to the meeting, told Greater Kashmir.
However, the pro-Omar party cadres countered the pro-Ishfaq group with sloganeering like ‘Omar Sahab Kadam Badhaaw, Hum Tumharay Saath Hain’ (Omar, go ahead, we are with you).
A senior NC worker, who attended the convention, said the party leadership knew the situation would turn ugly. “Whatever happened inside was very much expected. It is not a surprise,” he said, wishing not to be named. “This issue should have been addressed soon after Ishfaq joined NC in August 2013.”
Pertinently, Ishfaq’s joining the NC fold had unnerved Congress as his father late Sheikh Abdul Jabbar had been an ardent Congress leader and a known figure of Ganderbal district. Ishfaq is largely relying on the vote bank of his father besides managing to lure some more support in his favor in the past couple of years.
NC insiders disclosed that it was after the intervention of party leaders, especially Sagar and Mian Altaf, that the angry supporters of Omar and Ishfaq were pacified. Interestingly, Omar, who contested 2008 Assembly elections, successfully defeated PDP’s Qazi Muhammad Afzal.
“See, he was projected as pro-youth politician when he got elected from this place. No doubt he took some major steps with regard to development of Ganderbal, but if we look at his overall performance as a legislator, that is not satisfactory,” said Muhammad Ayoub, a shopkeeper at Behama, Ganderbal. “He was portrayed as messiah of youth, but he couldn’t deliver. Our youth aren’t satisfied with him as a ruler, let alone legislator.”
Abdul Gaffar, an elderly man in his 70’s, said nobody can predict who would win from this place. “But yes, I can tell you that I won’t vote for Omar if he contests and don’t ask me why,” he said amid a gentle smile outside NC headquarters at Ganderbal. He said it was not Omar would fetch no votes at all. “They have a base since Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s time. So they would get votes for sure,” he said.
According to a party hand-out issued here, senior NC leaders while addressing the convention at Ganderal expressed satisfaction at party’s continued consolidation of base in the area. “People of Ganderbal share a bond of history and loyalty with NC. Lot of senior PDP workers, office bearers and activists from Ganderbal expressed their desire to join NC,” it said.
NC insiders said that Omar had earlier been given a choice to contest from Budgam but he refused.
“At present he has a choice of Ganderbal, Sonawar and Hazratbal,” they said. “One thing is clear that there is consensus within the party that he should fight from two Assembly segments simultaneously.”
Talking to Greater Kashmir, NC provincial president for Kashmir, Nasir Aslam said slogans and counter-slogans in a party function is part of a democratic process. “Ishfaq’s name is also in the panel of candidates from Ganderbal. So till the final decision of the party will come, his supporters would obviously demand mandate for him. The fact of the matter is that NC is in a strong position in Ganderbal as more people want to participate in elections,” he said. “In 2008, situation was created by the PDP that nobody was ready to contest elections. The situation at present is altogether different. People want larger participation in poll process, which is a biggest achievement of NC.”
He said the party leadership had sought names of at least three probables from each Assembly segment. “Till the final name was out, resent was seen at some places. But we managed almost all the mandates announced so far in a very nice manner,” he said. “The party’s decision is supreme as seen in the cases of mandates announced so far. The party cadre has accepted the mandates announced by heart.”