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Will Omar restore his party's pride in Ganderbal?

By Mukhtar Ahmad in Ganderbal
November 22, 2008 23:36 IST
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Two constituencies in the newly-created district of Ganderbal will go to polls on Sunday in the second phase of the seven-phased assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

There are two constituencies in the district, including Kangan and the prestigious Ganderbal constituency from where National Conference president Omar Abdullah is pitched against eleven other candidates, including Qazi Mohammad Afzal of the People's Democratic Party and Sheikh Mohammad Ashfaq of the Congress.

Traditionally a stronghold of the NC, voters here shocked the party in 2002 when they voted against the party and elected a little known candidate Qazi Mohammad Afzal of the PDP.

Omar lost the 2002 elections to Qazi by 2,870 votes.

Ganderbal has been represented by Omar's grandfather and NC founder, late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1975 and 1977.

NC patron and Omar's father, Dr Farooq Abdullah won elections from here in 1983, 1987 and 1996.

The NC fielded Omar from Ganderbal to retrieve its image and also send out a powerful message that Omar had re-established himself in a constituency that was his party's traditional stronghold.

Qazi's image in the constituency took a serious beating here when the Congress-PDP coalition government, in which Qazi was the forest minister, allotted 40 hectares of forest land to the shrine board managing the affairs of the annual yatra to the Amarnath cave shrine in north Kashmir Baltal area of Ganderbal district.

The Congress candidate, Sheikh Ashfaq, resigned from the police department to join the polls. He is the son of the former senior NC leader Sheikh Abdul Jabbar, who defected along with 17 other legislators from the then Farooq Abdullah headed government.

The defectors formed a government with Congress support led by Farooq Abdullah's brother-in-law, G M Shah in 1984.

Because of the high profile status of this constituency, deputy election commissioners, R Bhttacharya and R Bala presided over a high-level meeting here to review the poll arrangements.

The meeting was told that out of a total of 79 polling stations, 24 have been declared as sensitive and 57 hypersensitive in the constituency.

This constituency has a total of 137560 voters out of which 738 are migrant voters.
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Mukhtar Ahmad in Ganderbal