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A glorious beginning, says Omar Abdullah

By Shujaat Bukhari



The National Conference president, Omar Abdullah, with jubilant supporters at the party headquarters in Srinagar on Thursday. — PTI

SRINAGAR, FEB. 3. The Opposition National Conference, which has retained control of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation in Monday's civic elections, today celebrated its victory with its president, Omar Abdullah, declaring the centenary celebrations of the party's founder, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, open.

Mr. Abdullah termed the party's "splendid performance" as a glorious beginning for the future of Kashmir. At the NC headquarters here, where the party organised an impressive show, he said there could be no other day to begin the centenary celebrations of "Baba-e-Quoom" (father of the nation), as Sheikh Abdullah is referred to by the NC. "I declare the celebrations open with this splendid victory," he said amid applause.

Mr. Abdullah sounded confident that the mayor of Jammu Corporation would also be elected with the help of the NC as the Congress had failed to get a majority. "This success has to be registered in each and every part of Kashmir," he said.

"The day we have an election with an honourable 50 per cent polling, it will be the victory of democracy. The Mufti is hasty in making statements," he said, referring to the 22 per cent turnout in Srinagar. "If anybody says it is the defeat of militancy, they must wait till the elections in south Kashmir are over. Why don't they understand that human rights violations are adding to the mass alienation? It is a vote against the Mufti's failure to address the needs of Srinagar city in the last two-and-a-half years."

`Encouraging results'

The ruling People's Democratic Party said the results were encouraging. It also claimed to have made a new beginning. The party has won 17 seats in the city for the first time.

The PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti, told reporters that her party had fared well. "In fact, people know that the political issues are safe with our party" she said. "Let us not insult the political majority of Kashmir. This vote was for civic amenities."

She highlighted the inroads that her party made in the city (over 31 per cent of polled ballots and 17 seats in the corporation) despite the fact that the Government is yet to offer adequate representation to the city in the Council of Ministers.

Ms. Mufti said that her party stood for dialogue, reopening all traffic across the Line of Control and the central policy of "healing touch."

"It is the institution of democracy that has won. Credit this institution in which people have reposed their faith. They voted for a party and the system did not let them down."

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