It was 11.30 pm on Thursday, flood waters were climbing dangerously, inundating Barzulla locality in Srinagar, and the anxiety levels of the senior officials with him were rising. But Chief Minister Omar Abdullah stayed put; he would only leave when three-month-old Aiza Faheen, stuck on the second storey of a house along with her grandparents, was rescued.
Omar had run into the parents of the baby at Baghat bridge. The mother was crying. “My wife told the CM our daughter is trapped. He assured her that he would not leave till our baby was rescued.
Finally, after three hours, I along with the officials managed to save her. Omar left only after that,” said father Shabir Gojwari, a businessman.
Elections are only months away, and lugging the weight of an administration seen as unresponsive, and own image of being distant, Omar was not taking any chances.
The CM has personally visited residences submerged under flood waters in Srinagar, a city where his party National Conference’s vote share has been slipping. On Saturday, he was in Jammu, the division worst affected by the floods and which has always left neglected by Kashmir-centric parties.
The fact that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in the state on Friday and Saturday, and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be here Sunday, has further stirred political waters. The BJP that fancies its chances in the coming J&K Assembly elections is doing so largely on the strength of its Jammu votes.
Officials said the CM has been monitoring the situation round the clock and receiving regular flood updates.
The Congress’s leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad also visited the flood-affected regions Saturday, including Srinagar’s hospitals inundated by flood waters.
Ministers Akbar Lone, Hassan Mir, Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Mohammad Ramzan, Sakina Itoo and Mir Saifullah all did their rounds of flood-affected regions, braving public ire at places.
PDP leader Altaf Bukhari has set a helpline, while other senior party leaders have headed out to their constituencies.
The people were happy at the response, though not too impressed. “Natural disasters can happen anytime, but when elections are close, officials and politicians take much interest in solving problems,” said Aleem Farooq, an MBA student from Srinagar’s Bagh e Metab, currently under water.