New Delhi: Dynasty politics played out in different ways in the Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand state elections. While the Jammu and Kashmir results have put a question mark on the relevance of the Abdullahs, the results in Jharkhand perhaps show a change towards performance rather than dynasty as represented by the Sorens.

It was the best ever performance for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, just as it was the worst for the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, the party that has dominated state politics for the most part of the time since India’s independence.

Its defeat has put the spotlight on outgoing chief minister Omar Abdullah no doubt, but more importantly, it has put in focus the issue of his political survival and the continued relevance of one of the country’s oldest political dynasties.

When he stepped into state politics, Omar Abdullah promised change. He promised more jobs, development and focus on the youth. Adding weight to all this was his biggest advantage—his surname.

After the National Conference won the 2008 polls along with the Congress, the party website put up a quote by his grandfather Sheikh Abdullah: “Only that accession will endure which is acceptable to the hearts of people… People’s hearts can be won only by love, justice, truthfulness and sincerity and not with subsidised rice, Army and offering largesse."

The message was clear: Omar Abdullah wanted to portray himself as the real ideological successor of Sheikh Abdullah. He deliberately stepped out of the shadow of his father Farooq Abdullah and wanted to be viewed as the leader of the Kashmiris just like his grandfather, popularly known as Sher-e-Kashmir (The lion of Kashmir). On Omar Abdullah joining politics, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Abdul Gani Bhat had said, “The sun has long set on Kashmir; son rise or son set will not make any difference to it."

The outgoing chief minister lost from Sonawar constituency by 4,783 votes to PDP’s Mohammad Ashraf Mir, but won from Beerwah, defeating Congress’s Nazir Ahmed Khan by 910 votes. In 1996, National Conference had won 57 seats. In 2002, the numbers came down to 28. In 2008 it was 28 again, and this time the party has won 15 seats.

Despite the criticism about him not being Kashmiri enough or politically mature, Omar Abdullah tried hard to convince the people of the state that he would be the change they wanted. His emotionally charged ‘I am a Muslim and an Indian too’ speech in Parliament changed the country’s perception of him and made him quite popular with the youth.

Six years later, the National Conference is struggling to survive in the state owing to the party’s inefficient governance and failure to stand by what its leader had promised. Public resentment started simmering against the state government following the way Omar Abdullah handled the murder and alleged rape of two women in Shopian and the civilian protests in 2009-2010. From then on, the credibility crisis has only deepened and the public has questioned his ability to represent the aspirations of Kashmiris.

“The government was faced with three main challenges—the summer unrests in 2009 and 2010 which killed many civilians…the hanging of Afzal Guru and the recent floods where the government was unprepared to deal with the situation. There was a strong resentment against the government. All this just added up, along with the generally bad overall performance of the government," said Noor Ahmad Baba, professor of political science in the University of Kashmir.

However, Baba says it’s too early to write an obituary for the Abdullahs.

“National Conference is deeply rooted in the psyche of Kashmiris. It still has a committed group of supporters. It is premature to write an obituary of the party," he says.

Dynasty politics was not limited to Kashmir in these elections. Though not as old as the Abdullahs, the Sorens in Jharkhand represented a different kind of dynasty politics.

When Hemant Soren took charge as the chief minister of Jharkhand in 2013, it marked the emergence of dynastic politics in the state. Hemant Soren is the son of former chief minister Shibu Soren. The Dumka constituency has been one that has been contested by both father and son. On Tuesday, Hemant Soren lost the seat, though he has managed a win from Barhait constituency.

Political analysts feel that the state is turning towards performance than dynasty.

“New voters have different aspirations and are more focused on development. The old may still feel obliged to Shibu Soren, as he worked towards uplifting the tribals in the state, but that population is slowly becoming a minority, which shows in the results," said Harishwar Dayal, a Jharkhand-based political analyst.

However, they feel that in the short time that Hemant Soren was chief minister, he managed to change Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s image.

“His task was to establish himself and come out of his father’s umbrella. They have managed to retain their seats from the last election and also increase the party’s presence," Dayal said.

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