Hitting out at the leadership of Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling National Conference for treating Ganderbal assembly constituency as Abdullah family’s “fiefdom”, a veteran party leader Sunday said he was quitting and would contest the state polls against the party candidate.
Ghulam Ahmad Saloora, who belongs to Ganderbal and has been a prominent leader of the NC for over 38 years, said the area had been neglected by the party leadership that has never been serious about the welfare of its people.
Addressing a public meeting in Nawabagh area of Ganderbal, he said he would challenge the NC during this year’s assembly elections by fighting elections from the constituency.
Saloora has held prominent positions in the NC during his long association. General secretary of the NC’s youth wing for 13 years, he served as NC district president for three years and at present was the provincial secretary of the party.
The Ganderbal assembly constituency is at present represented in the 87-member state legislative assembly by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
After Omar’s grandfather and NC founder, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah returned to mainstream politics in 1975 following an accord between then prime minister Indira Gandhi’s emissary G. Parthasarathy and Sheikh’s emissary Mirza Afzal Beg, the Congress made its sitting legislator, Muhammad Maqbool Bhat, vacate Ganderbal so that Sheikh Abdullah could contest the bye-elections.
Ever since, Ganderbal has been a political stronghold of the Abdullahs. Sheikh Abdullah fought and won two elections from Ganderbal in 1975 and 1977. His son, Farooq Abdullah fought and won three elections from this constituency in 1983, 1987 and 1996.
Omar Abdullah fought his first assembly elections from Ganderbal in 2002, but lost to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Qazi Muhammad Afzal. He staged a comeback in 2008 by defeating Afzal.
Saloora’s exit is being seen as denting the NC’s image in the constituency, but only time will tell what effect it has on its electoral prospects.