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Though dynastic politics is de rigeur in our democracy, few politicians in post-independence India have had to step into as large shoes in order to tread as tough a political terrain as Dr Farooq Abdullah has. Handed the mantle of the National Congress and the state of Jammu and Kashmir by his father Sheikh Abdullah, a popular leader of almost messianic proportions, the doctor, and political novice, traded in his practice for the delicate act of reconciling the hopes and dreams of over 3 million Kashmiris (and another 3 million in Jammu and Ladakh to boot) with the more prosaic issues of governing a state where a single misstep could lead to an international incident or domestic riots or (usually) both. He had to navigate the murky waters of Kashmiri identity and the question of independence, as well as the decidedly toxic ones of terrorism and the exodus of Kashmiri pandits. He had to contend with every manifestation of rage against what is still seen by many as an occupying power. He had to make peace with the separatists without agitating the unionists, stand up to the unionists without being branded a separatist. Like his father, he saw his government dismissed on multiple occasions by a central government that was ostensibly its ally. Like his father, he kept coming back.

Thirty years later, Abdullah is the elder statesman in Kashmir, his son Omar the political novice finding out for himself what a challenging — and often thankless — job being chief minister can be. He himself sits in the somewhat more peaceful environs of the Rajya Sabha, running the somewhat less dramatic Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. But he is by no means removed from the rough and tumble of Kashmir politics, often being called upon to intervene in the various debates raging through the state. As the cauldron of Kashmir comes to a boil, it is Farooq Abdullah who knows how hot the fire can get.

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