Days after the first Cabinet expansion in Jammu and Kashmir,an unseemly war of words has begun in the Congress between its two seniormost leaders in the state Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad,and ex-Union minister Saifuddin Soz.
Without taking names,each has taken on the other,with Azad accusing Soz of destabilising the Congress-National Conference coalition in the state,and Soz rubbishing the same.
Though the two leaders are old rivals,the latest spat was prompted by Azads indignation at some of his loyalists being kept out of the Cabinet in the recent expansion.
In a strongly worded statement which didnt name Soz,the Union Health Minister implied that JKPCC chief Sozs induction into national politics was an accident. Talking about a senior party leader who was unaware of the policies of the Congress,Azad said: He doesnt have any following even in his own constituency and is befooling the NC,Congress and Peoples Democratic Party by trying to destabilise the coalition government in the state. He also accused the leader of spreading rumours about him.
Soz,who is in New Delhi,reacted as sharply. A section of the press in J-K has published the statement of a senior leader casting insinuations on my integrity and probity. It gives the impression that I was behind stories that got published in newspapers suggesting the role of a senior leader in destabilising the Congress-NC alliance, Soz said.
A two-page document full of ire against my person is unbecoming of a senior leader. I categorically say that I had not spoken to anybody in the press regarding warming up of a person towards the PDP to destabilise the NC-Congress coalition. I have no knowledge on the background of these stories, he said.
Soz also hinted at Azads long tours of the state recently,saying leaking of his speeches was now public knowledge.
It is politically absurd and ethically obnoxious to indulge in character assassination and blackmail of the kind his statement reflects. If he is prepared to nail the truth and prove my involvement,I will apologise publicly, he said in a statement.
Soz also claimed he had no hand in the names decided for the Cabinet,saying it was the party high command that had approved the list.
The Soz camp also held a meeting at the JKPCC Srinagar office,where senior vice-presidents and district presidents of the Congress expressed solidarity with him,but without making any statement against Azad.