Srinagar: Will the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir go into assembly elections without naming its leader? At least its first list of 32 candidates indicates so.
The party’s parliamentary board, empowered to select candidates for assembly elections, met here Tuesday, perhaps for the first time without its patron and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, in attendance.
Jammu and Kashmir is likely to vote by the end of this year.
The party said 19 of the 32 candidates will contest in the Kashmir Valley and 12 in Jammu region. There will be one candidate in Ladakh.
The first list of National Conference candidates for the 87-member state assembly does not include Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Omar Abdullah represents the north Kashmir Ganderbal assembly seat from where Tariq Hameed Karra, the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) candidate for the Lok Sabha, polled over 3,000 votes more than Omar’s father and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah.
The PDP won all the three Lok Sabha seats from the valley, including Srinagar, which the senior Abdullah lost.
Omar Abdullah’s reluctance to contest from Ganderbal is believed to be the reason for the delay in the announcement of his name for the assembly elections.
The National Conference has not nominated candidates for Ganderbal, Hazratbal and Sonawar. According to party sources, Omar Abdullah could contest from one of the three places.
In all these three constituencies, the PDP candidate had polled more votes than the senior Abdullah in the Lok Sabha battle. Still, the ruling party’s leadership in Ganderbal favours Omar Abdullah’s candidature.
“How can Omar sahib leave Ganderbal? That would be a political surrender. His withdrawal would be a huge psychological setback,” a senior National Conference activist said.
“He must stand from Ganderbal and win from here,” he added.
But the source admitted that the Abdullahs have mostly neglected the constituency in the past.
Others in the ruling party in Ganderbal suggest that if Omar Abdullah chooses to fight from Sonawar or Hazratbal, then his father must fight the Ganderbal seat.
The Abdullahs have fought from Ganderbal since 1975 when the National Conference founder and Omar’s grandfather, the late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, contested after his return to mainstream politics.
Interestingly, the National Conference has decided to go into the 2014 assembly elections with old faces.
Almost all outgoing legislators lost control over their assembly segments to the PDP and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the Lok Sabha polls.
But all of them have again been named for the same constituencies they presently represent in the assembly.
These include Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather, Forest Minister Mian Altaf Ahmad, Social Welfare Minister Sakina Itoo, Consumer Affairs Minister Choudhary Muhammad Ramzan and Rural Development Minister Ali Muhammad Sagar.
The first list also includes Higher Education Minister Muhammad Akbar Lone, Minister for Home Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo and Minister for Animal Husbandry Nazir Ahmad Khan, besides assembly Speaker Mubarak Gul.
In Jammu region also, the National Conference has repeated its candidates. Its senior leaders Surjit Singh Salathia and Ajay Sadhotra will be fighting from Vijaypur and Marh constituencies respectively.