The Congress is set to annoint Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, as the head of its campaign committee for the upcoming Assembly elections in J&K. Although Azad has kept himself out of state politics ever since he resigned as the CM in 2008, the party has decided to make him spearhead the campaign in a bid to counter the charge that it lacked a credible face to lead the party in elections.
Azad, however, will not contest the Assembly elections. Neither will state Congress chief Saifuddin Soz which means the party will not have a formal or de facto chief ministerial candidate. While Azad will head the campaign committee, sources said Soz will be the chairman of the coordination committee and other key poll related panels. The state Congress is divided between Azad and Soz camps.
The lack of clarity on who will lead the campaign is said to be agitating the rank and file and several leaders from the state have been demanding that the party should project a face for the campaign. The move to make Azad the head of the campaign panel comes at a time when the BJP is going all out to increase its tally in the state, especially in the Jammu region.
Azad hails from Jammu, but has acceptability in the Valley as well and was the CM for three years. While Congress leaders accept that it will be an uphill electoral battle, they believe that as the contest is going to be four-cornered the party can make gains. The Congress and the National Conference have already decided to fight the elections separately.
Sources said the Congress, apart from highlighting the achievements of the government of which it is a part, will focus on issues like equitable development of the three regions (Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh), financial commissions for the three regions, the plight of refugees living along the border in the Jammu region.
The AAP accused the government of "politicising" the occasion by not inviting Kejriwal.