In a setback to the Congress, senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday declined to accept the responsibility as chairperson of the Congress campaign committee and member of the political affairs committee of the Kashmir unit of party. Azad’s refusal, notably, came just moments after he was appointed to the key posts.
“He is a member of the political affairs committee headed by (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi. It is strange to include him in a similar committee in a state (UT) as a member. These are mindless decisions,” a leader close to Azad told The Indian Express, signalling that the leader is miffed with the high command’s decision.
The discord within the state unit of the party has been out in the open ever since former Kashmir Congress chief GA Mir stepped down following protests from leaders close to Azad in the state. Days later, Azad loyalist Vikar Rasool Wani was appointed the UT party president and Raman Bhalla as its working president.
A senior Congress leader told The Indian Express that Azad’s appointment to party posts in the state unit was not befitting of a leader who had been a former chief minister, a union minister and a top party functionary.
According to a senior Congress leader, appointing Azad as head of the campaign committee of a UT was also insulting. “He has been a minister with four Prime Ministers in five governments; he was Leader of Opposition (in Rajya Sabha) for seven years. A former chief minister, he is in the Congress Working Committee for the last 37 years; has been in charge (of the party) in every state,” a senior Congress leader told IE. “And now those sitting in the AICC are appointing him as campaign committee chief of a UT…”
In the list of new party posts for the UT released by Congress general secretary K C Venugopal on Tuesday, Tariq Hameed Karra has been made the vice-chairman of the campaign committee and the chairperson of Congress’ UT political affairs committee. Meanwhile, GM Saroori, a close aide of Azad, has been made the convenor of the campaign committee.
Interestingly, this is the first time in the party history where both president and working president in the UT hail from Jammu. Both Vikar Rasool and Raman Bhalla are two-time legislators from Jammu’s Banihal and Gandhi Nagar Assembly constituencies respectively. Many see this decision by the top party leadership to increase the divide between the Kashmir and Jammu leaders in the UT.