Srinagar: Congress, the kingmaker political party in Jammu and Kashmir in the past is seeing the worst time right now.
The party's rule in the erstwhile state had ended in January 2015 as the Omar Abdullah-led National Conference (NC)-Congress coalition government completed its six-year long term.
Earlier, the party had also formed a coalition government with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Before that Congress had a long history of crowning and then dethroning the leaders including the tallest ones also.
In November-December 2014 assembly polls, BJP wiped out Congress from the scene through a humiliating defeat.
Whatever political structure of the party was left, it is crumbling down now due to the ongoing trend of resignations of a large number of leaders and prominent workers loyal to Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Today former Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed and several others resigned. This trend began after Azad resigned from the Congress and announced to form his own political party.
This is likely to continue till Azad concludes his J&K visit on September 12. He is arriving in Jammu on September 4, where his supporters are planning a mega rally, followed by similar rallies later in Doda and Srinagar.
Since Azad lobby in Congress was very strong and vast, their departure is weakening the party further. The new JKPCC chief Vikar Rasool Wani said that whosoever wants to leave can leave.
"We will rebuild our party by bringing the second line leadership forward,” he said. All India Congress Committee incharge for J&K, Rajani Patil said, “Azad's resignation and new party is part of bigger conspiracy, which will get exposed with time.” Azad sahab is levelling baseless allegations. Like the decisions in Congress are being taken by security guards and PAs of Rahul Gandhi sahab. Was Azad sahab also made Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha by the security guards,” she asked.
While the resignations on large scale are occurring in Congress, other political parties are also closely watching the developments.
There is some panic among the parties regarding possible exit of some of their leaders to join Azad.
All parties are waiting for Azad's J&K visit. There are reports that some leaders from other parties including senior ones may leave to join Azad's party. The situation will become clear during Azad's visit.
Till now different parties have reacted differently or some have not reacted at all on Azad's resignation from Congress. National Conference (NC) President Dr Farooq Abdullah initially sided with Congress over the issue and said Azad should not have done this thing right now.
Later, he said his party is ready to work with Azad's party. PDP welcomed Azad back into J&K politics and defended him for floating a new party. This stand was contrary to that taken by Apni Party, which alleged that Azad's moves were being directed by the Central Government and that the former Congress leader is shedding crocodiles tears on the issue of Article 370 as he was “himself part of its abrogation.”
BJP, which sympathised publicly with the Azad “for the ill-treatment meted out to him in Congress”, made it clear that only BJP will form the next government in J&K with its chief minister.
The party is convinced that Azad factor is not going to affect its vote bank, which is very much intact and whatever damage he causes will be caused to the non-BJP parties. Even the parties here are of the view that if Azad's party contests the elections solo it will lead to division of votes among the non-BJP parties.
In that case NC will be the worst sufferer. That is why Dr Abdullah even talked about joining hands with Azad's party despite the NC's provincial committee during a recent meeting having resolved to contest on all the 90 assembly seats.
Ghulam Mohammad Saroori, a close confidante of Azad, is also saying that his party will contest on all assembly seats and provide an alternative to the people of J&K.
Azad had to make an unceremonious exit from J&K politics in 2008 following the toppling of Congress-PDP coalition government headed by him as PDP withdrew support. Prior to his coming visit, Azad has appealed to political leaders, workers and other people to join him and his party for a better J&K with a new era of peace and development. How his plea is responded here will be clear in the coming days.