The Congress in Jammu suffered a big jolt on Saturday when its senior party leader and former legislator, Sham Lal Sharma, who had raised the slogan of 'Hindu chief minister for Jammu and Kashmir', joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Sharma was welcomed in the BJP fold by the party's nationalvice-president and J&K State Prabhari, Avinash Rai Khanna, and statepresident Ravinder Raina along with hundreds of his supporters.
Speaking on the occasion, Sharma said, "I decided to jointhe BJP for a larger interest of Jammu."
"From day one of my entry into the politics, I raised theissues of Jammu and faced lot of resistance within the party (the Congress),"he said, adding that he had never got support from the Congress leadershipwhich he said had developed a habit of acting as "bonded labour" to please thebosses of a "particular section".
Sharma claimed that he never compromised with hisprinciples. "When I found myself uncomfortable and suffocated in the party (theCongress), I preferred to remain away from its functioning," he said.
Sharma who is believed to have "mass base" in Akhnoor,Raipur-Domana and Khour constituencies of Jammu district, claimed that "morethan 20,000 workers of the Congress had merged with the BJP with his joining."
Elected first time on the Congress mandate in 2004by-election from Jammu's Akhnoor constituency, Sharma served as cabinetminister from 2004 to 2014 in the Congress led PDP and the NC governments.
However, differences between the Congress and Sharma came tofore in 2014 when he was cabinet minister in Omar Abdullah's government and heconfronted the Congress' 'secularist' stance and raised slogan for 'Hindu ChiefMinister' for Jammu and Kashmir. He was criticized widely and the partydistanced itself from his statement.
After few months, Sharma resigned from the Omar Abdullahministry, over alleged "sabotage of regularisation of daily wagers in PublicHealth Engineering department, which he was then heading".
Sharma was former MLA from Akhnoor constituency and he lostin 2014 to the BJP candidate.
In May 2018, Sharma stepped down as vice president of Jammuand Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee. Sharma is said to have miffed at theCongress over the working of its state president Ghulam Ahmed Mir and "discrimination"against Jammu.
Sharma had advocated regional council for Jammu to "enddiscrimination at all levels".