Internal crisis in J-K Congress, is Azad forming a new political party?

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As the possibility of assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir [J-K] is making rounds, the resignation of 20 senior Congress leaders from their respective party positions has led to a speculation of a new front in Jammu and Kashmir under the leadership of the former chief minister and parliamentarian Ghulam Nabi Azad in the region.  

On 17 November, at least 20 senior Congress leaders considered close to former Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, resigned from the party, demanding change in party leadership in the erstwhile state.

Prominent among them include former ministers G. M. Saroori, Vikar Rasool and Dr Manohar Lal Sharma, besides Jugal Kishore Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Monga, Naresh Gupta, Mohammad Amin Bhat, Subash Gupta (all former legislators), Pradesh Congress vice-president Anwar Bhat and member of Kulgam District Development Council and former district president, Anyatullah Rather.

In the resignation letter addressed to All India Congress Committee (AICC) interim president Sonia Gandhi and copied to Rahul Gandhi, Rajni Patil, in-charge secretary for J-K Congress, the leaders alleged that under the presidentship of Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Congress is heading towards a disastrous situation and more than 200 senior Congress leaders, including former ministers, MLAs, MLCs, PCC office bearers, district presidents and AICC Members have resigned from the Congress and joined other parties, while some others have chosen to remain in the silent mode. 

Talking to The Kashmir Walla, the J-K Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir said that he has not received any official communication from the leaders who have quit the party posts and nor has Congress leadership in New Delhi reached out to him to deliberate on the matter.

“I have not received any written communication from the people who claim to have resigned from the party. So, it will not be appropriate for me to comment on the issue unless I will get an official confirmation about the matter,” Mir said.

On the possibility of a new front in J-K, Mir said that the onus of a new party in the region lies on the people who have defected from the Congress party.

“I think people who have deserted the party should be in a better position to talk about the new party in the region. As far as Congress is concerned we are a cohesive unit which is committed to work for the welfare of people of the valley,” Mir said.

Mir said that none of the members who have resigned from the party posts raised the issue of their differences with the leadership till date.

“All these members have never attended any party meeting in the past two years. None among them ever reached out to me to express their grievances,” he said.

However, Mir said that any member quitting the party would impact its functioning on the ground.

“It is not only about senior leaders resigning from the party. Even the resignation of grass roots members will impact the party,” Mir said.

Sources told The Kashmir Walla , that Sonia Gandhi is in touch with the J-K leadership to avert a split in the party ahead of the crucial assembly polls in the erstwhile state.

Sources said Gandhi is in talks with Ghulam Nabi Azad, G. A. Mir, AICC in-charge of J-K, Rajni Patil to find an amicable solution to the crises.

The J-K incharge Rajni Patil said that the party leadership in New Delhi has taken the cognizance of the matter and are in talks with all J-K leaders.

“Being a party president Sonia ji has taken cognizance of the matter. She is in talks with the leaders, and the issue will be resolved soon,” Patil told The Kashmir Walla over phone.

However, Patil declined the possibility of the emergence of a new party in J-K led by G N Azad and his loyalists.

“It is true that some Congress members are not happy with the leadership in J-K, but that doesn’t mean there will be a new front emerging from the party,” she said.

However, Patil declined to comment on the possible change in party leadership in J-K to avert the crisis.

The internal split in the party has come at a time when the rumours are ripe that the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls are likely to be held at the onset of summer next year.

A report of the Delimitation Commission headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai is ready to submit its report at the end of December this year. On 24 October, Home Minister Amit Shah during his three day tour  to J-K said that the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir would be restored only after the delimitation and holding of Assembly elections in the erstwhile state.

Prominent political analyst Noor Ahmad Baba said that the resignation of 20 Congress leaders indicates that there is a clear split in the party.

“It seems very clear that the Congress in J-K is divided between two groups led by Mir and Azad. And it will definitely dent their chances in getting more seats in the upcoming assembly polls,” Baba said.

Baba said that Azad is trying to create his space in J-K politics after being marginalized in New Delhi following his spat with the top brass in the Congress.

“Azad has not been on good terms with the Gandhi family lately. And I don’t think he will be in a scheme of things for the Congress’s future plans in New Delhi. So, he has switched his focus to J-K , particularly on Jammu district to continue his regional politics,” Baba said.

Azad, who has been a Gandhi family loyalist, was a signatory of a letter that questioned Congress central leadership’s style of functioning.

Azad was one of the 23 senior Congress leaders who signed the controversial letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, asking for a full-time party president, and also several reforms to strengthen the party.

Following the letter, many Congress leaders questioned Azad’s future rule in the Congress party.

The former LoP is busy touring Jammu and Kashmir for the past few weeks and has managed to draw big crowds at his home turf Pir Panjal. In the past few weeks, Azad has toured Dyala Chak in Kathua, Thatri Inderwal, Jammu, and Banihal.

Baba said that a possibility of a new party under the leadership of Azad cannot be ruled out given the political atmosphere in J-K.

“Everything is possible in politics. Azad has a strong regional support of Congress members in J-K. So, it will not be a surprise if he forms a new political party in the region,” Baba said.

Meanwhile, despite several attempts, Azad was busy in public meetings in Pir Panjal and was not available to comment on the split in the party.

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