LS polls: Omar Abdullah to contest from Baramulla seat

PTI, Apr 12, 2024, 7:36 PM IST

Srinagar: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah will contest elections from the Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency, the National Conference announced here on Friday.

Making the announcement, party president Farooq Abdullah also told reporters here that influential Shia leader Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi will contest from central Kashmir’s Srinagar constituency, which has been an NC bastion.

After the abrogation of Article 370, and the downgrading and division of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories, Omar Abdullah, the NC vice president, had announced he would not contest assembly elections unless J-K’s statehood was restored.

Spread over 18 assembly segments, the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat would be one of the keenly watched contests as electoral dynamics in the constituency have changed after delimitation.

The constituency, which encompasses four districts of Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora and parts of Budgam, is pegged for a key contest with a largely direct fight between the NC and Peoples Conference chief Sajad Gani Lone, the separatist-turned-mainstream politician.

The junior Abdullah would be banking heavily on Shia support as the constituency has many Shia dominated areas that include Budgam, Beerwah, Pattan, Sonawari and Bandipora, among other pockets.

Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency was redrawn in the delimitation exercise, undertaken after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, to include two assembly seats of Budgam district — Budgam and Beerwah — both Shia dominated, and one each new assembly segment in Baramulla and Kupwara.

Before delimitation, the constituency has been a forte of the NC as the party has wrested the seat ten times since 1957.

The Congress has won four times and the PDP once.

In the last general elections in 2019, NC candidate Mohammad Akbar Lone secured 133,426, defeating his nearest rival Raja Aijaz Ali of the Peoples Conference who polled 1,03,193 votes.

Independent candidate, Sheikh Abdul Rashid polled 1,02,168 votes to grab the third spot, while the PDP candidate Abdul Qayoom Wani with 53,530 votes stood at number four.

Rashid, who contested the last elections but is under NIA custody on terror-funding charges, has an influence in Langate assembly segment of the constituency which he represented in the erstwhile J-K legislature twice.

His party, Awami Ittehad Party (AIP), has announced it will field Rashid, who is currently in detention in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail, from the seat for the Lok Sabha polls.

The PDP, which stood at a distant fourth place in the last elections, has fielded former Rajya Sabha MP Fayaz Mir.

This will be the first time since the 2009 general elections that Omar Abdullah will contest the Lok Sabha polls.

He was first elected to Lok Sabha in 1998, at the age of 28, when he won the elections from Srinagar, becoming the youngest member.

In 1999, he was re-elected to 13th Lok Sabha, and on October 13, 1999, took oath as Union Minister of State, Commerce and Industry.

On 22 July 2001, he was made Union Minister of State for External Affairs.

However, Omar Abdullah resigned from the post on December 23, 2002, to concentrate on party work.

In the run-up to the 2002 legislative assembly elections in J-K, the junior Abdullah was chosen to lead the NC, while Farooq Abdullah shifted base to the Centre.

However, Omar Abdullah lost assembly polls from Ganderbal constituency.

While Farooq Abdullah was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2002 from J-K, and then re-elected in 2009, Omar Abdullah contested and won the Lok Sabha polls from Srinagar constituency in 2004.

During the vote of confidence vote in the Lok Sabha on July 22, 2008, Omar Abdullah gave a fiery speech in Parliament which was praised by many.

Omar Abdullah then went to become Jammu and Kashmir’s chief minister when his party entered into an alliance with the Congress in January 2009 after the assembly elections.

In 2009, his father resigned from the Rajya Sabha and won a seat in the Lok Sabha from Srinagar.

When the senior Abdullah contested the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat again in the 2014 elections, he was defeated by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Tariq Hameed Karra.

However, Karra resigned from Lok Sabha in 2017 leading to a by-election for the Srinagar parliamentary seat which Farooq Abdullah won defeating the PDP candidate Nazir Ahmed Khan.

The NC president won the Lok Sabha polls again in 2019.

Omar Abdullah won the assembly elections in 2008 from Ganderbal constituency.

He had contested and won the 2014 assembly elections from Budgam’s Beerwah segment which is now a part of the Baramulla Parliamentary constituency.

After the delimitation exercise in J-K in 2022, the re-drawn Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency is now spread over the districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal, Budgam, and parts of Pulwama and Shopian comprising 19 assembly segments.

Considered the party’s stronghold, Srinagar seat has been wrested by the NC 12 out of 15 times it went to polls/bypolls since 1967.

The Congress, the PDP and an independent have won from the constituency once each.

The party has already fielded senior Gujjar leader Mian Altaf from Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat.

The party, which is a part of the opposition’s INDIA-bloc, is contesting on three seats in Kashmir valley, while it has left two seats in Jammu and one seat in Ladakh to its ally Congress.

Srinagar goes to polls on May 13 while voting in Baramulla will be held on May 20.

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