Terming the party’s decision to stay out of the panchayat elections in 2018 “a huge mistake”, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah on Monday said: “Aaj se koi bhi election aaye, humne boycott nahin karna hai (Any election that is held from now on, we will not boycott it.)”
Despite being reluctant to contest for a fresh term as the party president, the 85-year-old leader was elected unopposed to the top post in the party, which he had held since 1981, barring one term held by his son Omar Abdullah.
“I had expressed my wish that a young leadership should now hold the reins of the party. However, after much deliberation and the insistence of the members of our party that it would not be wise to leave right now, given the difficult times that we are in, I have accepted this role again but also urged the party to prepare for new leadership,” he said, adding that youth has to be given more responsibility if the party has to move forward.
Calling for strengthening the organisation, Abdullah also urged Omar to contest in any impending polls in the UT. “I am saying this to you as party president that you have to contest elections. We have to fight and for that we all have to enter the poll fray and defeat them,” Abdullah said.
Following the revocation of special status to J&K on August 5, 2019, party vice-president Omar Abdullah has often repeated his stance to not contest any Assembly election while J&K remains a Union Territory.
Farooq Abdullah, who has led the NC for more than 34 years, also warned the government and the security forces against interfering in any future elections to be held in J&K. Recounting an episode where he said “locals of a village in Doda abstained from voting out of fear from the security forces”, Abdullah said “this should not happen again”.
On the occasion of NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s 117th birth anniversary, the party held a delegate convention at his mausoleum at Hazratbal. The party’s internal elections had concluded last year barring the party president’s position. The elections were delayed while Farooq toured all parts of J&K and Ladakh. On Monday, the delegate session began with the recitation of the Quran, the gayatri mantra and a Sikh prayer.
“People used to think that (Article) 370 was important only to the Muslims of Kashmir but now the people of Jammu are also coming to terms with the importance of (Articles) 370 and 35A. They have understood this because the jobs meant for their children are being lost to others,” Abdullah said.
He added that officials in J&K are now mainly from outside the state and said: “We are being turned towards slavery but God willing, we will defeat this. We have to stay united.”
Omar said the party’s fight is not just with the BJP and its allies, but also with the administration of the UT. “Decisions pertaining to security are proportional only to the BJP’s threat perception. The party that poses the highest threat to the BJP will have the least security,” he said.
He said the party will continue its fight for restoration of special status to J&K “peacefully, democratically and legally, and we will win”.
NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said only Abdullah’s nomination was received till the last date of filing the nominations. On Monday, he received the support of 183 delegates from Kashmir, 396 from Jammu and 25 from Ladakh to confirm another term for him as president. Abdullah also leads the mainstream coalition – PAGD – as its chairman.