Srinagar: National Conference’s clean sweep across Kashmir has happened for the fourth time, the last such stellar showing occurring a decade ago.
It was in 2009 that the NC last won all the three parliamentary seats in Kashmir: Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag. NC president Farooq Abdullah had won from Srinagar, Sharifdudin Shariq had won from Baramulla, and NC-turned-PDP politician Mehboob Beg had emerged winner in Anantnag.
In the next election in 2014, the party suffered its worst-ever debacle when it was routed from the Valley by its bête noire PDP. The defeat also coincided with the first-ever election defeat of Abdullah, who was ousted from his stronghold of Srinagar by PDP’s Tariq Hameed Karra, who has now joined the Congress.
In the 2017 by-poll, after Karra quit the PDP as well as Parliament following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in 2016, Abdullah again captured the fort.
Many see the NC’s re-emergence as based on its going back to its core agenda, which includes autonomy for J&K. An NC leader attributed the party’s sweep to its pro-Kashmir agenda and revival of the demand for autonomy. After the NDA-led government binned the autonomy resolution that the NC had passed in the state assembly in 2000, the party had almost abandoned it.
This election, the party took up the defence of Article 35A and Article 370 at a time when both the Constitutional provisions were being challenged in the Supreme Court. The BJP was also aggressively pledging to remove both the Acts from the Indian Constitution.
Whatever the decisive factor, the party has returned to its winning ways. All through the 1980s, NC maintained its monopoly over the state. It secured all the three seats in 1989 when its candidates Pyare Lal Handoo, Mohammad Shafi Bhat and now Congress leader Saifuddin Soz won. Similarly, NC swept the 1984 polls with its three candidates, including the wife of NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Begum Akbar Jahan, and Saifuddin Soz and Abdul Rasheed Kabuli emerging winners. Before that, Farooq Abdullah won his maiden Lok Sabha election in 1980. Since then, the three-time former chief minister has lost an election only once in his 42-year political career.