Not my thoughts, social media post on Engineer Rashid's win meant to spark debate: Omar Abdullah

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Srinagar: National Conference leader Omar Abdullah has dismissed claims that Engineer Rashid's win in the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat strengthens "secessionist" movements and clarified that his 'X' post highlighting the victory was meant to spark a debate.

He emphasised that the views expressed were not his own but aimed at promoting dialogue. "They're not my thoughts and I made that abundantly clear," Abdullah told PTI on Monday.

The NC leader said his social media post highlighting Rashid's win was meant to spark debate and raise awareness about the election discussions happening nationally and internationally.

"If I had to express those views, I would have made them during the campaign. I would have said it in a speech. I put that tweet there and I've no regrets about doing it," he said.

The NC leader said it is important that people know what is being talked about in the election in the rest of the country and the world.

A controversy erupted after Abdullah last week posted a news article on a social media platform that suggested Engineer Rashid's win would empower "secessionists".

The row broke out after a private television news agency attributed the excerpts of the article shared by the National Conference (NC) leader to him. It triggered reactions from mainstream politicians in Jammu and Kashmir.

Abdullah was defeated by Sheikh Abdul Rashid, popularly known as 'Engineer Rashid', who is jailed under the UAPA, by more than two lakh votes in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections. The NC leader had conceded defeat and congratulated Rashid on his win. About Rashid's political stance, Abdullah acknowledged that while Rashid may hold differing opinions at times, he has taken the same oath to uphold India's unity, integrity, and Constitution as any other politician.

Addressing the social media controversy that followed his initial post, Abdullah said his opponents might attempt to twist his words but emphasised the importance of holding him accountable for his own views.

Reflecting on his defeat in the Lok Sabha elections from Baramulla, Abdullah admitted that campaigns focusing on emotional appeals, such as Rashid's son's plea to free his father from jail, play a significant role in deciding the outcome.

"The sentiment, the emotional appeal made by Rashid's son to people to help him get his father out of jail worked for the AIP. 'Merey baap ko phaansi lagney se bachao, vote do' (Save my father from gallows, vote for him)... How do you counter that? You can't! It would take a heartless person to tell people that 'whatever happens with Engineer Rashid, let it happen but you give your vote to me'," he said.

When asked about any regrets about contesting from Baramulla, the NC leader explained that the decision was based on party inputs and ground assessments, with factors evolving during the campaign period.

"As far as I was concerned, it was a fight between me and Sajad Lone and that's how it was. Engineer Rashid came later and for the first few days, even his campaign was absent...

"Then suddenly something changed. What changed, I don't know! Now I've a lot of theories as to what happened or why it happened but since they are in the realm of theory, we will leave them where they are," he said.

Abdullah expressed acceptance of the election results, stating that while he does not regret his actions, he would consider a different decision if given the chance.

He also defended against labelling his loss as a rejection of dynastic politics, pointing out that other political figures with family backgrounds in the region have won.