Srinagar: The National Conference (NC) led by Sher-e-Kashmir fought autocracy. However, the fight ended with his arrest in 1946 during the Quit Kashmir Movement. While Maharaja Hari Singh had a host of reasons to flee from Kashmir in 1947, the NC has been taking credit for ‘forcing him to run away’.
The state got rid of autocratic rule in 1947 but the organization that made this ‘possible’ turned hugely autocratic as the time passed. Ever since it took birth in 1939, NC has been headed by a member of the Sheikh family. It was in 1953 that Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad imposed himself as head of the organization while Sheikh was in prison. He later merged with Congress. In 1975 the NC was re-founded and as expected Sher-e-Kashmir became its president.
In 1980, Sher-e-Kashmir passed on the leadership to the ‘younger generation’. However, in the entire state he could find only his son eligible to carry the ‘movement’ forward. This, however, did not help the Sheikh family. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s son-in-law who was also a contender for the top post in the organization vowed to avenge the ‘injustice’. In 1984 summer when Farooq Abdullah was on a holidaying, he took oath as Chief Minister of the State. Farooq, however, continued to head NC as Ghulam Muhammad Shah chose to launch his Awami National Conference (ANC) which he headed till his death.
The ageing Farooq followed Sher-e-Kashmir and passed on the leadership to the third generation Abdullahs. Omar Abdullah’s coronation also drew a huge crowd.
People close to National Conference ascribe reasons for ‘failure’ of the organization to ‘autocratic’ attitude of the Sheikh family. The Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah realized this. Talking to a news channel on June 30, 2011, he admitted NC was a weak organization.
Omar said his father Dr Farooq being a union minister cannot give sufficient time to organizational affairs. “Similarly I too remain busy and find no time for the party. But now I shall play a vital role. A strategy is being chalked out to make the organization broad based”, he said.
Omar said he would feel happy if a person having no connection with Sheikh Family is elected president of the National Conference. “In the past this organization has been headed by people who were not even remotely connected to the Sheikh family”, he said.
In September 2011 some people again discussed the issue. They expected a person not linked to the Sheikh family as head of the organization. Dr Farooq rushed from New Delhi to make things clear.
“The presidentship of National Conference shall remain in the Sheikh family”, he announced while addressing a handful of NC members who had been herded to his Gupkar residence.
The authority of Sheikh Family in the party remains unchallenged; there is no question of anyone seeking his replacement.