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J&K: Farooq Abdullah to Step Down as National Conference President; Poll for New Chief on Dec 5

Anees Zargar |
There were rumours that the NC leader’s resignation was an outcome of increasing disagreements within the party ranks over several political decisions, including over revocation of Articles 370 and 35A.
National Conference president Farooq Abdullah.

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah. Image Courtesy: PTI

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) president Dr Farooq Abdullah has decided to step down from the post of president in what has been termed a “sudden announcement” by his party spokesperson on Friday.

National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi said that Farooq Abdullah has already informed his colleagues about the decision to step down from the top post in the party.

“In spite of the best efforts of senior colleagues in the party, Dr Sahib was adamant that he wouldn’t review his decision,” he said.

The spokesperson, however, added that the 85-year-old leader would continue to hold the president’s post until the party elections are conducted.

“In light of this sudden announcement which has caught everyone by surprise, the party General Secretary, as per the party constitution, has been tasked with conducting the election for party president, which will be completed on December 5, 20222. Until that time, Dr Sahib continues as President of the party,” he said.

The party confirmed Farooq Abdullah’s decision after rumours of his stepping down as the party’s leader surfaced that many believed were an outcome of increasing disagreements within the party ranks over several political decisions, including the politics over the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A.

Various local news platforms, who spoke to Farooq Abdullah earlier today, reported that he has not resigned and will continue as the president until the party elections are announced. The statement from the leader also indicated a lack of consensus within the party.

“I have not resigned... There will be new elections, and a new person may come, and until then, I am the president. We are part of a democratic party, and elections should happen,” he told a digital news outlet News Insider.

The fresh announcement was followed by another notice from the party general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar, who issued an election schedule for the presidential elections.

Farooq Abdullah succeeded his father, Sheikh Abdullah, as the president of the National Conference party in 1981 and has been holding the current position since 2009. He has served as chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir thrice between 1982-84, 1986-90 and 1996-2002. He is the current Member of Parliament from the Srinagar parliamentary constituency. He is also the president of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a grouping of local mainstream political parties formed in 2020 to advocate the restoration of the ‘special status’ of J&K that was abrogated on August 5, 2019. From the beginning of his political career, he has been a major supporter of J&K’s autonomous status.

A party insider told NewsClick that there had been friction amongst the leaders, especially about the party’s role in the changing polity of the region. The leader said that the party is preparing for the next Assembly elections but expressed dismay over the lack of consensus over key issues, including advocacy under PAGD.

NC vice-president and Farooq’s son Omar Abdullah was seen storming into a PAGD presser at their Gupkar residence on October 15, forcing an abrupt end. Omar Abdullah, at the time, claimed they were due for another party meeting, but one of his party leaders said it could have been most likely Omar Abdullah’s “discomfort” with the PAGD.

“Farooq Abdullah has over the years grown more resilient than his colleagues, and he seems to be amongst a few more concerned over the J&K’s special status and future of politics than those who follow him... It may wear anyone out,” a party affiliate said.

The decision of Farooq Abdullah also comes a week before the final publication of electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir will be published. Political parties, including NC, had opposed the decision taken during the process that allowed the inclusion of persons “ordinarily residing in the Union Territory of J&K” as voters. A 14-member committee was also formed in October in this regard; however, what they have been able to achieve remains unclear.

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