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Second homecoming for Omar Abdullah

By Sumir Kaul in Ganderbal
December 28, 2008 16:12 IST
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Putting behind his bitter defeat in 2002 polls, National Conference chief Omar Abdullah on Sunday finally reclaimed his party's traditional stronghold of Ganderbal, defeating People's Democratic Party rival Qazi Mohammed Afzal to whom he had lost in his first electoral battle at the state level.

"I am elated and thankful to people of my Ganderbal constituency who have given me a chance to serve them, which I will be doing in the right earnest," the 38-year-old scion of Abdullah family said after his win by a substantial margin.

Omar, who began his political journey in the state from this assembly seat in 2002 elections, had been advised by some of his party men to choose another constituency in the backdrop of his previous poll debacle. National Conference had emerged as the largest party in the last polls with 28 seats in the 87-member House but chose to sit in opposition.

"But I wanted to begin from the same seat where I had tasted defeat, the first one, of course. I knew the vote against me in 2002 was the anger of people and all I wanted to convince them was to give me a chance.

"The chance has been given and now it is my turn now to give them the best of the facilities," said Omar flanked by hundreds of well-wishers.

Omar, along with his wife and two children, came here to thank voters for supporting him.

Ganderbal constituency has been the pocket-borough of the Abdullah family. Before Omar, his father Dr Farooq Abdullah represented the seat from 1983 to 1996. Omar's grandfather Sheikh Abdullah was also elected from the constituency.

Omar became an MP in 12th Lok Sabha for the first time and went on to become the youngest union minister at the age of 29 under then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In 1999, Omar was re-elected to 13th Lok Sabha and was made Union Minister of State, Commerce and Industry in the NDA government. After two years, he was made Union Minister of State of External Affairs.

Despite the disapproval of the Central government, Omar had a one-to-one meeting with then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad in 2006. The meeting was the first of its kind between the young mainstream political leader from Kashmir and the Pakistan government.

Omar escaped a bid of his life in 2007 when suspected terrorists threw two rifle grenades targeted at him while he was interacting with party workers at a NC leader's house.

During the debate on trust vote sought by the UPA government in July this year, Omar gave a passionate speech on the Amarnath land row issue which drew praise from leaders cutting across party lines.

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Sumir Kaul in Ganderbal
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