The most prominent face of ruling National Conference in Srinagar and party’s General Secretary, Ali Muhammad Sagar, believes the party’s October 29 rally would infuse a new lease of life in NC. The former minister believes that the NC President, Farooq Abdullah has taken on himself to do something for the resolution of Kashmir issue and that he would not let people down. Excerpts from an interview with Kashmir Newsline.
Last year Kashmir witnessed a massive uprising following the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani and activities of mainstream political parties came to a halt. How did you manage to organise a massive public rally in the heart of Srinagar on October 29?
There was no single factor for the success of the party’s delegate convention. The gathering was beyond our expectations. We had put in a lot of hard work in making it a success. We were making arrangements for a month-and-a-half. The targets given to the delegates were met. In fact, they were asking for permitting them to bring more workers. We had set a target of 11,000 for the rally but we got some 19,000 instead. Those of our supporters, who were annoyed with the party in the past, also participated.
The participation was massive also because of the government’s bad performance. Many wanted to know what Dr. Farooq (Abdullah) sahab’s stand on Kashmir was now keeping in mind the recent developments. Three days ahead of the rally, some political workers were also killed but we got more than we had made arrangements for.
People have once again started to have a soft corner for NC. They now understand, all said and done, NC, by and large, is the best option at their disposal.
Was there a fear about organising this convention? When people were seeing association with the mainstream parties as a stigma, how did you pull this thing off?
The fear was definitely on our minds. For this very reason, we did not make it a public rally and called for the participation of only party cadre. This is the reason why 5000 to 6000 of our supporters had to wait outside the venue. The beauty of the function was that we had delegates coming from all parts of the State – Jammu, Pir Panjal region, Chenab Valley, Kargil, Leh and all the ten districts of Kashmir valley including the people living on borders and in far-flung areas. All were happy with the function. Although the party had offered to make arrangements for them, every delegate made arrangements for their own stay and food.
The passions at the rally were for everyone to see. It was after three decades that people made the stage and other arrangements for the function on their own instead of waiting for the party’s management.
The function was successful also because of the efforts of the Youth National Conference, NC Women’s Wing, Provisional Presidents (Nasir Aslam Wani and Devender Singh Rana) and District Presidents besides the party’s Working President, Omar (Abdullah) sahab and the NC parent wing.
Had did you reach out to your workers or youth before the delegate convention?
We had started a membership drive and registered their mobile phone numbers so that there was no fake membership. We conducted Mohalla elections for the party and well-qualified delegates were elected. Many of our workers were annoyed that they did not get the party cards but we made the process transparent and ensured no fake members were registered.
Farooq Abdullah’s recent statements seem as if he is trying to cater to the constituency of the Kashmiri nationalists now. Why this change in heart?
Farooq sahab has been thinking that he has recovered from ill health only to do something for the people of the State. He feels Allah has provided him this opportunity to do something concrete for them. Before his death, he wants to do something that would help resolve Kashmir issue. He believes people of the State have had enough and that a lot of things need to be done for them. And he would not let people down.
The party continued with Farooq Abdullah as President despite reports that Omar Abdullah might take over. Why?
Omar (Abdullah) sahab didn’t agree to the preposition. We had asked him to take over the party’s mantle. He suggested it would be better for the party if Dr. (Farooq Abdullah) sahab continues as the president. Farooq sahab has a stature and is a prominent figure in Kashmir politics. Some people may say anything about him but the reality is he is well respected throughout the country, and considered a man with good standing. He has been visiting remotest parts of Kashmir like Karnah and Tangdhar to generate the support of the masses for the party and help in rejuvenating it.
After the success of the rally, would you sit on your laurels or avoid it?
The message now has to go to every nook and corner of the Valley. We are putting in our best efforts and now we have to replicate this success at the district and block level and make NC what it used to be.