Omar Abdullah is to the manor born. Scion of the First Family of Jammu and Kashmir, he is considered amongst the most polished and suave politicians in the country. The Abdullah surname is perhaps the most powerful one in the beleaguered state of J&K. His grandfather, Sheikh Abdullah was an undisputed leader of the state. At the time of Independence, J&K wanted to maintain sovereignty but chose India when Pakistan unceremoniously attacked them. However, since Nehru hailed from Kashmir, he had a soft spot for it and treated the state with kid gloves empowering it with special status. As a result, Sheikh Abdullah became the first Prime Minister of J&K. Over the years, under the immense pressures from our neighbours, J&K is very slowly becoming and being treated like one of the Indian states – so Omar is the Chief Minister (not the Prime Minister).
The beginning of the rise to power
Born in UK, Omar Abdullah was educated in Srinagar, Sanawar and Sydenham College (Bombay) where he was studying, but didn’t complete B.Com. He briefly flirted with the corporate world when he did a short stint with the Oberoi hotel group. It was during this stint that he met Payal Nath, his future wife.
In 1998, a 28-year-old Omar returned to J&K to join politics. He joined the family business of politics when the family was facing reversal of fortunes. The party formed by Sheikh Abdullah had been merged into the Congress, a splinter group of the original party had appropriated the party name and though father Farooq Abdullah had formed a new party independent of the Congress, it wasn’t exactly the strongest. But Omar had a flair for the job and quickly took over the reins from his father steering their party back into power. Since then that has been his playing field.
Sending a Message
Though he helms the most troubled and most in-the-news state of India, Omar does not take centre stage in the whole Kashmir imbroglio as it plays out on the sub-continent and world stages. But lest anyone think he is a puppet or a pushover, he sent out a very strong message in 2006 when he chose to travel to Islamabad, Pakistan to have a one-on-one meeting with Parvez Musharraf, then Prime Minister of Pakistan.
High living and fond of the good life, Omar is a frequent in the party circuit of Delhi where his wife maintains home with his two sons. Omar’s personal boat was rocked by rumours of his alleged affair with journalist Nidhi Razdan. Even as the whisperatti were exchanging avid rumours about the two, news about his separation from his wife of 17 years roared around and as far as the rumour-mongers were concerned, it confirmed the news from the grapevine. While Omar confirmed his split over Twitter, there has been no update on the Nidhi Razdan front. Excited undertones still speculate on that one.
Social (Network) Life
Omar is a tech-savvy politician and was also an early adopter of social media. He has over 4,00,000 Twitter followers and sends out tweets on a regular basis. He is also active on Facebook and most of his posts draw a minimum of 800+ Likes. This stands the quiet, unassuming and polished politician in good stead as he is practically a shoo-in for the top post of the state again in 2014 because as of even now no other regional or national party has been able to make a large enough dent to sway voters away from Abdullah’s party, Jammu & Kashmir National Conference.
By Sujata Garimella