Ganderbal: The ruling National Conference's traditional bastion Ganderbal is set for a triangular fight with PDP, NC and an Independent contesting the polls after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah decided not to contest from the constituency which goes to polls on November 25.
The electoral battle in Ganderbal is now a triangular contest between PDP's Qazi Muhammad Afzal, NC's Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar and Sheikh Ghulam Ahmad Saloori, who is contesting as an Independent.
Qazi is hopeful of riding on "PDP wave" that he believes is sweeping the Valley where the party is confident of better prospects than the last state polls.
"I am 100 per cent convinced that people want change. I am also sure of my win as people hate NC for its failure to keep its promises of development and employment," he said.
"People have made up their minds to defeat NC and this mood was gauged by Omar and hence he decided not to contest from here," he added.
Though Qazi is seen as the front-runner, Saloori's entry into the fray has made the electoral battle interesting as there are many pockets in the Assembly segment where he enjoys formidable support.
On December 23, the verdict day, it would be clear whether National Conference dented by a series of jolts, is able to retain the constituency or will its boat sink from what was once known as its home turf.
Omar's grandfather and the NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah joined mainstream politics and fought elections from Ganderbal in 1975, when the then sitting Congress MLA from the constituency Mohammad Maqbool Bhat vacated the seat for him.
Abdullah won the by-elections, became the Chief Minister of the state and thus started the family's relation with the constituency.
Two years later, at the end of his tenure in 1977, Sheikh again chose Ganderbal to contest the polls and won.
After Sheikh's death, his son and Omar's father Farooq Abdullah fought the polls from Ganderbal in 1983, 1987 and 1996, and won them each time.
After Omar took over the reins of the party and decided to enter state politics, he, too, chose Ganderbal to mark his debut.