LS polls: Three generations of Abdullah family cast vote in J&K’s Srinagar

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Srinagar: Three generations of the Abdullah family on Monday cast their vote in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency, with National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah appealing to people to turn out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.

NC president and former J-K chief minister Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and his two grandsons and first-time electors Zahir and Zamir“ cast their vote at the polling station at the Burn Hall School here.

“We have two first-time voters with us. It is for the first time that three generations of our family are voting together,” Omar Abdullah, also a former chief minister, said.

It is for the first time since 1998 that no member of the Abdullah family is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Srinagar. The only loss the NC suffered on this seat was in the 2014 general elections.

While the BJP, which is in power at the Centre, is not contesting any of the three Lok Sabha seats, including Srinagar, in Kashmir, the party is confident that the elections in the Valley will end the domination of the NC and the PDP in the region.

Supported by the INDIA bloc, the NC has fielded influential Shia leader and former minister Aga Ruhullah Mehdi while the PDP has named its youth unit president Waheed Para as its candidate.

Even though the Srinagar seat was expected to witness a virtually head-on contest between Mehdi and Para, Apni Party’s Mohammad Ashraf Mir and DPAP’s Amir Ahmad Bhat are also in the fray along with 20 others, including two women.

Talking reporters after voting, he appealed to people to come out and vote as it was the “only democratic way to raise their voice against the decisions taken by the Centre in Jammu and Kashmir”. The NC leader was referring to the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 that led to the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of J-K into Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

The Lok Sabha polls is also the first major election in the Kashmir region after the abrogation of the article, which granted special status to J-K.

Omar Abdullah also alleged that NC workers were harassed by the administration ahead of polling in the constituency.

“We have provided to the EC (Election Commission) names of eight of our workers so that they don’t say that we are talking without proof. It was not an exhaustive list but an indicative list. We gave the details of police stations where they were taken. We did not accuse a particular officer, we have said that it was being done by the administration,” the NC leader said.

“We are getting reports from other constituencies. Our polling agents were so scared that many of them did not go to their homes last night, fearing that they might be detained. Some of them slept over with their friends and relatives while some had to spend the night in their cars. If this is free and fair election, then they can keep it at home,” Omar Abdullah said.

In response to a question, he said Apni Party head Altaf Bukhari levelling allegations of harassment by the administration was a “joke”.

“Apni Party levelling these kind of allegations is a joke. All this is being done to benefit them only. Who else is here to contest for the Centre?” he said.

He, however, expressed hope that these incidents will not be repeated.

“Let bygones be bygones. Today is a new day and we hope that our workers will not be harassed like this,” the NC leader said.

Omar Abdullah appealed to people to vote, saying, “There is no boycott or violence, people should come out and vote. This is the only democratic way to raise our voice. So many things have happened which need to be answered by the people and this is the only way to do so.”

“How much effect it will have will be known by the close of the polling. We will have to wait till the evening to see how many voters in Pulwama, Shopian and Srinagar cast their votes. You will have to accept it this time that those who do not vote are doing so voluntarily,” he added.

Farooq Abdullah said while he was happy that elections were being held, it was a matter of regret that key workers of several political parties were detained over the past two days.

“I could not cast vote in 2014 as I was in hospital. I am happy that I am before you here. But there is a regret that while they say everything is normal and elections are free, they have arrested key workers of several political parties, mostly National Conference, over the past two days,” he said.

“I want to ask the PM (prime minister) and the HM (home minister) why our workers were arrested? Are they scared that they will lose? They will definitely lose, God Willing,” Farooq Abdullah added.

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