Omar Abdullah challenges Ghulam Nabi Azad to contest LS polls against him

Jammu, Apr 15: National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah challenged Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls against him, instead of “hiding behind a camera” and making statements targeting his party.Abdullah, a former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, is contesting the election from north Kashmir’s Baramulla parliamentary constituency. He is currently on a four-day tour of the Chenab valley region to garner support for INDIA bloc candidate Choudhary Lal Singh.The Chenab valley, comprising Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts, is an area where Azad has considerable influence. It also forms part of the Udhampur parliamentary constituency, which is going to polls on April 19.Azad, also a former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, was named as the DPAP candidate from the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat but he subsequently said he is not sure about his candidature as he was not consulted by the party about it.”I challenge him (Azad) to contest (the polls) against me to test his strength. Hiding behind a camera and giving statements (against the NC) is very easy. If he is a man, let him fight against me. I will see how many votes he gets,” Abdullah told reporters on the sidelines of his roadshow in the Thathri area of Doda district.Braving inclement weather, the NC leader carried on with his roadshow in support of Lal Singh, who is contesting the polls on a Congress ticket against Union minister Jitendra Singh.Asked about Azad’s onslaught against the NC in his election rallies, Abdullah claimed that he is doing so at the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”We did not speak against Azad (after he left the Congress and floated his own party in 2022) until he started targeting NC president Farooq Abdullah. We considered him as our friend but he turned out to be a friend of the BJP,” he said, adding, “It is Azad’s compulsion to target the NC as he cannot target the BJP.”Earlier, addressing a gathering from atop a vehicle despite rains, the NC leader said his tour of the Chenab valley is meant to caution people about the ground situation and the conspiracies to divide their votes and weaken their voice.”The party with a bucket symbol (DPAP) is not here to benefit you and resolve your issues. It has joined the (poll) contest to benefit the BJP, which revoked Article 370 of the Constitution, bifurcated the erstwhile state into Union territories (on August 5, 2019) and made hollow promises to us,” he said.Abdullah said this was the first time in the history of the country that a state was downgraded to a Union Territory. “What has changed (after August 5, 2019)? They made big promises and accused us of being an obstacle in the development of the region.”The NC leader said they are compelled to ask about the promised industrialisation, opening of new factories, employment for youngsters and massive development.He slammed the BJP for its “failure” to ensure employment for locals in under-construction power projects and said the administration has decided to lease out electricity from the Rattle Hydro Electric Power Corporation Limited, a joint venture between the NHPC and the Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation, to Rajasthan for 40 years even as “our villages face major power cuts”.”This is the same power project that gave the BJP Rs 600 crore in the form of electoral bonds,” the NC leader said.(PTI)

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