Ganderbal, represented by three generations of a family —Sheikh, Farooq and Omar Abdullah — over the years, presents a prestige battle to the National Conference now that Omar Abdullah has chosen to contest elsewhere, and especially when his replacement has left many National Conference workers sulking.
Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar is a former Congress leader who had contested last time too, and a son of former minister Sheikh Jabbar. After Ishfaq replaced Omar as candidate, NC veteran Sheikh Ghulam Rasool has left to join the PDP, a jolt to the NC in a region from where the former legislator hails and where his clan alone accounts for more than 1,000 votes. Former NC block president Ghulam Ahmad Saloora has broken away to form his own party, while Omar’s chief agent in the last polls, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, is now the Congress candidate.
All of this could work in favour of PDP candidate Qazi Afzal who, incidentally, defeated Omar in 2002 before the latter wrested the seat back in 2008. The NC, however, has a dedicated vote-bank in Lar area.
“Omar sahib has done a lot of work in Ganderbal. On the back of development alone, I can win the next three elections from here,” says Jabbar. And Afzal says, “People come to me and say that they miss Mufti sahib (former chief minister). When PDP was in government earlier, people were happy as there was development.”
Omar campaigned extensively in the constituency and reminded people of the projects given to Ganderbal during his tenure.