In the run-up to Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has been purportedly sidelined from the various party committees in Jammu and Kashmir. As senior congress leader argues in this article, the decision might cast a shadow on the party’s upcoming poll prospects in the State.
By Gulsher Khan
At a time when Congress is counting on Lady Luck of Priyanka Gandhi—the “young Indira Gandhi redux”, Pradesh Congress Community (PCC) has underwent a sweeping change, dwarfing the size and sway of its “crisis manager” in Jammu and Kashmir.
Amid renewed blitz created around India’s grand old party, in soon-to-be kick-off election campaign, Ghulam Nabi Azad remains a faded figure. His chopped role, to chagrin of his huge party loyalist base, has already underlined the deepening sense of in-fighting and squabbles within Congress.
If the snowballing issue won’t be addressed on war-footing, then Azad camp might rise up in revolt, anytime soon.
The latest decision has been taken on the party’s “young blood” vigour belief. But this ‘new’ unwritten rule has come at the cost of the stature of some seasoned leaders. This is where one can trace the genesis of Azad’s shunted State say.
After serving head of the Congress Campaign Committee in three consecutive Assembly elections in JK since 2002, Azad was recently put at serial number three in the Campaign Committee, after PCC president GA Mir and Nawang Rigzin Jora. Further, in the coordination committee, headed by Ambika Soni, Azad has been kept at fourth place after Mir and Jora, while a number of leaders from his camp have not been adjusted in any of these panels.
Conveying his displeasure over the arrangement and structure of the panels, Azad had already dissociated himself from these committees.
In his over 40-year-long association with Congress, Azad rose to become its “crisis manager” in the state, besides the first Congress chief minister in JK, after a hiatus of 30 years. Before him, Mir Qasim was the last Congress chief minister, who had to vacate his chair for Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, following the 1974 Indira-Abdullah accord.
It was due to Azad’s organisational skills that he went to hold the enviable record of being the AICC general secretary for nine times. His pro-party stance and member-friendly approach made him the unparalleled leader of the state.
During his chief minister stint spanning 2.5 years (2006-08), Azad took some notable decisions, including implementation of Roshni Act, constitution of Round Table Conference, eight new districts, extension of Hazratbal Shrine, Tulip Garden, Yatri Niwas, Haj House, setting up of new administrative units, enactment of law against corruption, among others.
Azad also introduced new working style in the shape of double shift and triple shift.
As a joint candidate of Congress and National Conference in the 2014 General Election, he had contested from Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency. He lost to BJP’s Jitendra Singh.
While the Congress party’s top leadership is citing Azad’s larger national commitment for his shunted state role, his camp is now looking forward to a state-level programme of party workers on 17 February.
Azad along with AICC general secretary in-charge, Ambika Soni is scheduled to address it. While the party leadership is expected to clear the air about any possible trouble in the state unit, there’s a growing feeling in state Congress section that Azad’s ‘cut to size’ stature has been scripted to shunt him out, in the long run.
Notably, Azad was in command of party affairs in Uttar Pradesh before being removed in 2018, when he was given a subdued position as general secretary in-charge of Haryana.
His UP removal and subsequent sidelining had to do with the induction of Priyanka Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia in the state’s fold. He was nowhere to be seen among Congress leaders lately when Priyanka visited Lucknow on her maiden visit to the state.
This purported campaign to sideline Azad is a big mistake — especially for Congress party’s upcoming election prospects. Deciding which candidate to vote is simply a matter of party affiliation for many people. Others, however, cast their votes based on specific characteristics they look for in their candidate of choice.
This is where the party has created a big trouble for itself in the Muslim majority state, where Azad is no minnow.
The partisan treatment with Azad, who’s the tallest leader in the Congress as far as Muslims are concerned, has already left many miffed in PCC.
To raise the issue with the party high command, Azad camp is mulling to meet Rahul Gandhi. In case Congress leadership fails to address it, then there’s every possibility of a revolt in the party rank and file. In that possibility, the party might further plunge into the dismal state in JK.
The author is a senior Congress leader from Jammu and Kashmir.
Views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessary reflect the editorial position of The Indus Post.
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