Editorial: The eternal prodigal

Srinagar: It is said whenever Dr Farooq Abdullah speaks, it becomes a news. His recent outings in Valley has once again proven this saying true. Nobody can beat him at his knack of making contentious statements that generate the instant media and public attention. Over the past week, he has generated one after the another controversy.  First, he taunted New Delhi that it couldn’t take back Pakistan Administered Kashmir as Pakistan  was not weak and had not worn bangles. He also said that PaK was not India’s “father’s share”. And his latest statement has gone one step further. He triggered a fresh row by daring the Narendra Modi government at the Centre to hoist the national flag at Lal Chowk before talking about hoisting one in PaK.

Abdullah’s remarks have sent television channels into frenzy. The anchors and the talking heads have berated him. But Abdulah couldn’t care less.  In fact, he wants these discussions to  take place. He wants himself to become the centre of attention. It puts spotlight back on him and raises his political stock in the Valley, the core support base of his party.  This has been his perennial game-plan. Last year, when he returned to active politics after a gap of almost two years, he stirred up the political scene in the Valley, even in the midst of the runaway groundswell triggered by the killing of the adored Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Speaking at  the 111th death anniversary of his father, the legendary Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah,  a charged up Abdullah pushed the envelope a bit further, telling Hurriyat he was with them in their struggle. He also exhorted his workers to support the Hurriyat-led movement in Kashmir. In the throes of the unrest at the time, the Valley hardly took note of him but his deeply controversial statements got a due play in media. One such statement was telling New Delhi bluntly that  PaK was not its “father’s property”. That time, Abdullah was looking forward to contesting his parliament election from Srinagar. Sure enough, he went on to win the election – albeit by a very low margin.

But as things stand, Abdullah has continued with his anti-New Delhi tirade and made statements which seem to uninhibitedly play to the separatist sentiment in the Valley. And he is doing it at a time when there are no elections to look forward to.  But his ambition is bigger. He is bringing NC back into the play and fill in a political vacuum when the PDP has all but abdicated its political space. And if his current politics is anything to go by, he is leaving nothing to chance, even appealing to the extreme secessionist sentiment to rid his party of its pro-New Delhi image, a political liability in Kashmir. And he may be succeeding in this. And its biggest proof was that while Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was greeted by an angry mob shouting pro-Azadi slogans during her visit to the Khankah following the damage it suffered in a mysterious fire, Abdullah faced no such public fury, even if he was not warmly welcomed.






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