How Farooq Abdullah changed dynamics of presidential poll

Farooq’s withdrawal from the race prompted Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi also to decline the offer

Arun Joshi

When Farooq Abdullah announced the withdrawal of his name from consideration as the opposition’s candidate for the July 18 presidential poll, he did something more than that;  tell the opposition to unite and not falter on the choice of candidate and at the same time kept  Kashmir narrative alive.

Now when the opposition has formally named former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha as its candidate for the race. He will be contesting against NDA’s  Draupadi Murmu, former Governor of Jharkhand, there is an element of success for Farooq Abdullah to taste. It is not that the Opposition candidate will win the presidential poll, the chances of which are minimal given the arithmetic in the Parliament and state legislature that sits heavily in favour of BJP and its allies, but what it represents. Sinha had emerged as a loud voice of dissent in the Modi era, and as far as Kashmir is concerned, he is a  pro-dialogue face.

Farooq’s withdrawal from the race prompted  Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi also to decline the offer ( to contest for the President’s post).  This paved the way for Sinha to be named as the candidate for the post. Since Maharashtra’s strong man Sharad Pawar had already said no to the contest, so, finally, this matrix has come into shape only after Farooq made the announcement on June 18 of “respectfully withdrawing “ his name from the consideration for the possible contest.

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There are only three National Conference MPs, including Farooq Abdullah. They can vote for the opposition candidate. Electorally that may not count much, but it will send a message of the other kind- perhaps J&K is the only place that is without legislature even after more than three years of the dissolution of the Assembly, way back in November 2018. In reality, J&K is without an elected government for the past four years, which, in itself is a sad commentary on the democracy-less landscape of the people.

Had Farooq contested, there would not have been more than his party MPs, including, he himself,  voting from J&K . The absence of the legislature is not his fault, but the rivals would have got a chance to embarrass him that from his own territory.  Two other MPs are from BJP, in fact, if the erstwhile state’s Ladakh region is to be counted, the saffron party has three MPs in Lok Sabha.

Yashwant  Sinha has been visiting Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. He has been quite vocal about what he called “ wrong and repressive policies “ of the government with regard to Kashmir. His presidential campaign would also give him a chance to speak about this issue with the MPs and lawmakers in different states and the union territories. Farooq Abdullah has brought post–August 5, 2019, Kashmir into the campaign without contesting.

This fulfills his two underlined objectives – opposition unity and Kashmir into the campaign.

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