In a boost to the Congress in Jammu and Kashmir, several high-profile leaders who deserted the party in solidarity with Ghulam Nabi Azad returned to its fold Friday morning. The development comes just days before Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra enters the erstwhile state. Leaders who returned to the Congress include former Jammu and Kashmir Deputy CM Tara Chand, former minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, Manohar Lal and Balwan Singh.
Chand and others were part of a set of several leaders who quit Congress alongside Azad who went on to form the Democratic Azad Party (DAP). Notably, Chand, Lal and Singh, who were among the first to lend weight to Azad by walking out of the party, were expelled from the DAP even before Azad had registered the party’s name with the Election Commission of India.
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The three leaders were welcomed back to the Congress by AICC general secretary in charge of organisation, KC Vengugopal, AICC general secretary in charge of communication Jairam Ramesh and state in charge Rajani Patil.
Speaking upon the return of the Azad loyalists into the party, Venugopal said the “stalwarts” had left due to a “misunderstanding” and have now come back home. Stating that they had taken a leave from the party for two months, Vengopal said, “The leave is over and they are back.”
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Other leaders who returned to the Congress include Mohd Mujaffar Parray, Mohinder Bhardwaj, Bhushan Dogra, Vinod Sharma, Narinder Sharma, Naresh Sharma, Ambrish Magotra, Subash Bhagat, Santosh Manhas, Badri Nath Sharma, Varun Magotra, Anuradha Sharma, Vijay Targotra and Chander Prabha Sharma (senior women’s leader of DAP).
According to Jairam Ramesh, two more leaders were likely to rejoin the Congress soon.
The development comes as a boost for the party ahead of the Bharat Jodo Yatra which is scheduled to enter the state on January 20. Azad’s exit from the party had left a bitter taste for the Congress, especially over his resignation letter that blamed the Gandhis for the Congress’ decline.
When asked if Azad was also likely to return to the Congress, Venugopal said the veteran leader has himself ruled out the possibility. “We have said that those who believe in the ideology of the Bharat Jodo Yatra can join the yatra. All are welcome,” he said.