Huge crowds attend Abdullah’s poll rally in Kashmir

November 20th, 2008 - 8:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Ganderbal (Jammu and Kashmir), Nov 20 (IANS) Three days after Kashmir voters surprised everyone with a massive turnout, a rally addressed by National Conference president Omar Abdullah Thursday saw a large crowd gathered to hear him in this constituency from where he is contesting.National Conference’s red flags with white plough were fluttering in many parts of this newly created district as people in droves came out, despite icy winds blowing across, to participate in the party’s public meeting.

The huge crowd of about 8 to 10 thousand, according to estimates by residents here, was a welcome for Abdullah who was voted out in 2002 election from Ganderbal - once hailed as the Abdullah family’s bastion.

“You rejected me in 2002 and elected those who plundered forests in Kashmir,” Omar told the crowd referring to former forests minister Qazi Afzal, who won the Ganderbal seat in the last election.

Afzal, the controversial Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) minister, was also at the heart of the Amarnath land issue, a row that reinfused separatist sentiment in the Kashmir valley. The huge pro-separatist demonstrations following the land dispute in June, July and August had even cast doubts about the peoples’ participation in the assembly polls.

But proving the guesses wrong, at least 64 percent of people voted Monday in the first phase of the staggered Jammu and Kashmir elections that end Dec 24.

The second round of elections, including in Ganderbal, will be held Sunday.

“I know I have committed mistakes in the past for which you didn’t vote me,” Abdullah said.

“It’s your test Sunday. And if you vote me, I will be on your trial for six years,” he said. Unlike in the rest of India, Jammu and Kashmir assembly has a six year term.

The National Conference president said during the PDP-Congress rule Ganderbal was neglected. “Test me and see the difference. If I, after coming to power do not change your destiny then I will not come to you again,” Abdullah said.

He said his arch rivals, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba, the PDP president, were changing constituencies as “they have no confidence to meet the people they have deceived”.

The National Conference’s public rally came as another surprise in Kashmir electioneering that was earlier mainly restricted to party leaders’ drawing room meetings. No party, so far, had been able to gather such a crowd amid total absence of enthusiasm among voters.

On many occasions, political parties had to beat a hasty retreat when their leaders showed up in different constituencies. People were hooting them out and often pelt stones at their cavalcades

However, Monday’s huge voter turnout, which also was incident free, apparently sparked the political enthusiasm among voters drawing them to attend poll rallies.

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