Congress leadership’s ambiguous moves put J&K unit in fix; Is it – Advantage Azad?

Jammu, Jan 28: Vacillating moves of central Congress leadership have put its Jammu and Kashmir unit, staring at a vertical split, in a state of quandary.

J&K unit is finding itself sitting on the horns of a dilemma. Ironically it is the pro-active approach of one of party’s senior-most leaders and the former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad that has inundated the ‘official’ party rank and file with a feel of unease, it seems so.

   

Palpable discomfiture is not without reason. But none is so sure to come on record to say anything.

Already struggling to come out of political wilderness, a pan India phenomenon for the Congress at the moment, the party leaders on the right side of the central leadership are finding it hard to match the moves of the former Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, who in the past few months have already criss-crossed almost entire Chenab Valley and Pir Panchal sub-regions and few other areas in Jammu region. Some areas of Kashmir too formed part of his itinerary during last visit to J&K.

Though presently he is embroiled in an unseemly controversy over Padma Bhushan award announced by the Centre for him on the eve of Republic Day yet very soon he will again be here to “re-establish connect with the masses” in J&K, as he, himself, puts it.

Is it his return to J&K politics that has unsettled party leaders here on the right side of the central leadership? Question is simple, the answer is complex.

“See, we are looking up to the central party leadership. Its moves have added to uncertainty. Undoubtedly Azad Sahib enjoys a stature in J&K politics which no other Congressman enjoys at present. None has the potential to stand against him directly. We know that the top leadership is peeved over certain developments that started unfolding early last year. So we thought it is proper to maintain a safer distance but we cannot publicly point a finger at him, he continues to be in the party enjoying the stature of a tall leader. If one day he is removed from AICC’s Disciplinary Committee, the other day he is listed among star campaigners for crucial UP elections. No doubt, he’s a crowd-puller and a good manager in dealing with his opponents even, not just in J&K but even outside. So our dilemma is actually the top leadership’s confusing ‘blow-hot n blow-cold’ approach,” a middle-rung JKPCC leader points out.

“Yes, it has become difficult to comprehend Azad Sahib’s “Mann Ki Baat.” Have you not come across with latest revelations made by former AICC president Rahul Gandhi (as quoted by Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut) that the party high command had asked him (Azad) to lead J&K (as JKPCC president) where later he could become even the Chief Minister following assembly elections but he declined? So you tell me, what does he want to achieve here? Let him be the party president if he wishes so. But he does not want to take the burden of responsibilities as well. One wonders if he is taking a cue from our former party president (Rahul Gandhi) who does not want to don the mantle yet loves to call the shots,” another senior JKPCC officer bearer, who is part of ‘official camp’, chuckles, while commenting on the present scenario, in J&K unit.

“If you say that he has come to look for greener pastures here and take over the reins of J&K after seeing that the central leadership is in no mood to relent (to give him Rajya Sabha seat). I will take this observation with a pinch of salt. Do you not find a contrast here that his supporters want him back to J&K to replace the present JKPCC president, a post which he has declined? His supporters even raised a bugle against JKPCC president G A Mir as we’ve witnessed during his recent tours to Chenab Valley and Pir Panchal sub-regions of Jammu. But that was offered to him on the platter by the party leadership also. Party leadership is clear in its message for him – he has got enough (at the national scene). They’ve nothing to offer him (but the J&K unit). He has already reached his peak. This is my reading,” he avers.

But these arguments are demolished by the loyal coterie of Azad. A former minister, who takes pride in declaring himself as an avowed Azad supporter, however, chooses anonymity, while making comment on Congress leadership, both in J&K and at the Centre,

“If he has served a long inning in the national politics, surviving almost all change of guards in the party till the arrival of Rahul Gandhi …the credit must be accorded to his political acumen, his unmatched ability to be “politically correct” always at the right place. Ignore his political detractors if they use an uncouth expression i.e., “shrewdness” to define it. See, don’t underestimate his potential. He is loyal to the party. If he has to crossover, he can easily lap up the Rajya Sabha seat. BJP or few other parties will be more than willing to reward him for shifting his loyalty. If you talk about BJP, it is looking for a credible Muslim face at the national scene, who enjoys goodwill cutting across party affiliations, you cannot forget this straight fact. Azad Sahib fully fits the bill but he is loyal to the party,” he first responds to the arguments of Azad’s detractors.

“See to handle J&K is not an easy job. The JKPCC president has to stand the test of time and face the challenges within or outside head-on. There is a difference between Azad Sahib and the present JKPCC president. Former is a leader, the latter acts as a worker. His effort is not commensurate with that of Azad Sahib,” he adds

How is the central leadership’s indifference to the developments affecting JKPCC unit?

“Coming to central leadership, Rahul Gandhi had come here but that did not help the demoralised party workers, mainly youth, to feel upbeat. It is a general perception within the party as well that he is not taking desired interest to lead the party and this is hurting its prospects in J&K also. Ditto can be said about Priyanka Gandhi. AICC president Sonia Gandhi has the will and capacity to take substantial moves but the wait is becoming too long. If the leadership takes half-hearted moves to galvanise the party that will not help. This has given an opportunity to the leaders an open field to play pranks. If the party leadership has decided to give a long rope to the rival camp leaders, this will destroy the party,” the leader belonging to ‘official camp’ opines.

“J&K leadership is not competent enough to face him. It does not actually harm the central leadership also. Present state of affairs in the J&K unit is even otherwise not very rosy. So if it continues to experience downswing, it does not matter much. Congress, in the case of Kashmir, cannot lose sight of this fact that the National Conference is still the premier party there and it has equal, if not more, stakes in Chenab valley and Pir Panchal sub regions of Jammu. Where is Congress’ stronghold now? So for central leadership, there are bigger states and UTs to focus on. Azad, with solid backing of his loyalists – G M Saroori, Viqar Rasool, Jugal Kishore Sharma, Tara Chand, Dr Manohar Lal Sharma, is focussing on areas in Jammu region. It is good for the party. Central leadership too wants him to revert to J&K politics. So status-quo will continue for some time,” Azad’s loyalist argues.

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