“Engineer Rashid’s victory will empower secessionists in J&K”: Omar Abdullah

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New Delhi: Jammu Kashmir National Conference leader and losing candidate from Baramulla in the Lok Sabha polls has said that the victory of Abdul Rashid Sheikh, who is currently in jail on terror funding charges, will empower secessionists and give Kashmir’s “defeated” Islamist movement a renewed sense of hope. Abdullah had lost the elections to Engineer Rashid.

“Rashid’s victory, without doubt, will empower secessionists and give Kashmir’s defeated Islamist movement a renewed sense of hope,” Omar Abdullah said in a post on X. “Efforts to draw secessionism back into electoral politics led New Delhi to support the rise of the People’s Democratic Party and its alliance with the BJP. That, however, ended up empowering violent secessionists, not mainstreaming them–a warning of the unpredictable outcomes of trying to manipulate politics,” he added.

Omar Abdullah’s comments drew sharp criticism from PDP’s Waheed Para who accused Abdullah of not acknowledging the people’s mandate. Extremely disappointed with Omar Abdullah’s regressive stance, echoing the divisive politics of 1987, and dubbing a democratic expression as an ‘Islamist wave’. His family’s history with the Muslim Conference clashes with calls for the exclusion of PDP, Er Rashid, and JEI, and will put Kashmir into perpetual conflict with the state. A more prudent approach, akin to Mehbooba Mufti’s plea for Engineer Rashid’s release, would have been an acknowledgement of the mandate.

In the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Rashid Sheikh, popularly known as Engineer Rashid, ran as an independent candidate for the Baramulla seat and defeated Omar Abdullah. He secured victory with a margin of 204142 votes and received 47,2481 votes. Meanwhile, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and PDP Chief, Mehbooba Mufti, congratulated Engineer Rashid on Wednesday and urged the government to respect the people’s verdict, calling for his release.

“Heartfelt congratulations to Mian Altaf, Aga Ruhullah, Engineer Rashid & Haneefa Jan for winning the parliament elections. Government of India must respect the verdict of the people & release Engineer Rashid,” Mufti said in a post on X. In the 2024 Lok Sabha election, besides Rashid winning the Baramulla seat, the National Conference and the BJP won two seats each in Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP did not field any candidate in Kashmir.

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