Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Friday announced that he will step down as president of the National Conference, PTI reported.

“I will not be contesting for the post of president any longer,” Abdullah told the news agency. “It is time for a new generation to take over the responsibilities.”

Abdullah also said that anyone from the party can contest elections for the post. “It is a democratic exercise,” he said.

The National Conference said that Abdullah’s announcement caught everyone by surprise.

“In spite of the best efforts of senior colleagues in the party Dr Sahib [Farooq Abdullah] was adamant that he would not review his decision,” the party said in a tweet.

It said that the party’s general secretary has been tasked with conducting the election for the post on December 5. Till then Abdullah will continue as the president, it added.