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Omar rules out contesting assembly elections till J&K is UT

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Srinagar: National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah has ruled out contesting the assembly elections till Jammu and Kashmir remains a Union territory. “I don’t fancy my chances for anything. I don’t aspire to the office of the Chief Minister. And I most certainly do not aspire to lead a Union Territory.
“I have made it abundantly clear that in the current situation that J-K finds itself in, I am not contesting assembly elections. I have said this all the way back from 2020 onwards and my position has not changed,” Abdullah told PTI in an interview here on Saturday.
Asked about the rationale behind leaving the family bastion of Srinagar Lok Sabha seat to contest from Baramulla, Abdullah, who has been elected to Lok Sabha three times, said it was not his habit to take the easy road.
“Why should I shy away from a fight? Yes, the political wisdom would suggest that I fight from Srinagar because God forbid a setback for me would be a setback for the entire party. But this is not the first time that someone from the family has fought from a seat other than Srinagar,” he said.
Abdullah recalled his grandmother Akbar Jehan winning from the Anantnag constituency in the 1984 Lok Sabha polls.
“I still remember as a child campaigning with my grandmother from Anantnag in 1984 after the murder of democracy when MLAs were bought, defections were engineered and my father’s government was brought down.
“My grandmother fought and won from Anantnag,” he added.
Abdullah said his fight in the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat was not against a particular candidate but against the “might of the central government and the BJP”.
“The biggest onslaught of Delhi that we are seeing is in north Kashmir. The maximum effort to cobble unnatural alliances is in north Kashmir.
“If you remember last Friday, while coming out of Hazratbal, the leader of Apni Party Altaf Bukhari while referring to Sajad Lone, was a little insulting.
“He had called him do eenton ki imarat (a building of two bricks). No sooner had he uttered those words, senior BJP leader Tarun Chugh came running to Srinagar, went straight to Altaf Bukhari’s residence, and summoned Sajad Lone there to patch up this alliance.
“So, I am not fighting against an individual. My fight in north Kashmir is against the BJP, it is against the support it is giving to people on the ground,” he said.
On the claims made by the BJP about development in Jammu and Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370, the former chief minister said by any measure of human development, J-K is far better than some of the so-called developed states of the country.
“In terms of the quality of life, J-K ranks above even the states like Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. In terms of basic things like the matrix that makes up the human development index, in terms of infant mortality, maternal mortality, development, girl child’s education.
“According to them, the NC did nothing but we gave free education right up to the university level. Can you deny it? We handed over land to people without taking any compensation in our landmark land reforms which have not been replicated anywhere in the country.
“J-K is the only place in the country today where Dalits are able to walk with their heads held up high because they are land owners. Can we forget that? J-K has amongst the low levels of poverty in the country. When was the last time that you heard that somebody in J-K starved to death,” he said.
Abdullah listed infrastructure projects like hospitals and universities started by the elected governments in Jammu and Kashmir.
“It is all very well to say that we did nothing. I am citing to you the infrastructure that we created. What can they show me?
“They show me the winter games, not one piece of infrastructure that they used for Khelo India skiing has been built by them.
“This railway project that they are now talking about, how many PMs have laid the foundation stones for this. It was started by late PM Indira Gandhi, I was in school when work started, sharam karo (Have some shame),” he said.
On the security situation, Abdullah, while admitting a decline in stone-pelting incidents, said militancy was still there as terror attacks were taking place.
“If everything was normal, why did we not have simultaneous polls for Parliament and Assembly? What reasons did they give? That they do not have enough security forces.
“If they do not have enough security forces, that means the situation is abnormal, that there is still a threat of terror and that is why they need additional forces,” he said.
On the decline in protests, Abdullah said it would have been a good development if the hearts of those espousing separatism had changed.
“I would claim normalcy when all this is happening by choice, when you convert people who were otherwise against the interests of India into people who are for the country,” he said.
Asked about his dare to the BJP to field its candidates on Lok Aabha seats in Kashmir instead of supporting the proxies, Abdullah said, “Let them put their candidates, I am trying to get them to put their candidates.”
“I want to know why they are afraid… they are reducing tall leaders to almost nothing. In spite of his recent attacks against us, I feel great sympathy for Ghulam Nabi Azad. He was a national leader in the Congress,” he said.
Abdullah said Azad has been reduced to the leader of one parliament constituency.
“He has been reduced to a leader of Doda where he himself is not fighting… His party announced his candidature for Anantnag, Delhi must have told him ‘sit down’,” he c

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