With four senior leaders quitting the party’s newly formed committees within hours of being named to the same, the Jammu and Kashmir Congress’s revamp Tuesday may have ended up damaging it even more.
While one of its senior-most leaders, Ghulam Nabi Azad, was the first to resign from the two panels to which he was named (the Campaign Committee and Political Affairs Committee), the other three who have quit in protest are all from Kashmir. Of the three – Haji Abdul Rashid, a two-time MLA from Sopore, Mohammad Amin Bhat and Gulzar Ahmed Wani – Rashid has also announced his resignation from the Congress.
The reorganisation of the J&K unit was carried out by the Congress as an attempt to rejuvenate the organisation, by bringing rapprochement between the warring factions owing allegiance to Azad and former PCC president G A Mir, respectively. Earlier, many leaders close to Azad had quit party posts in protest against the continuance of Mir, forcing him to resign recently.
The Congress hope was that the Azad camp would be assuaged by the naming of Vikar Rasool Wani, a two-time MLA and former minister from Banihal, as the new J&K chief. Along with Wani, the Congress also named a working president, also from Jammu, former minister and two-time MLA Raman Bhalla.
While Azad was named as head of two committees, former Union minister Prof Saifuddin Soz and Mir too were accommodated as part of the balancing act.
Ironically, even Wani’s appointment as J&K Congress chief has not gone down well. Those unhappy include pro-Azad loyalists, who feel the post should have gone to someone more senior, like Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed or G M Saroori, both former ministers.
The rival camp, on the other hand, has questioned Wani’s promotion given that he was the face of the open revolt against Mir, asking about the message this sends.
A leader close to Azad said he felt insulted and humiliated at the posts accorded to him. The leader pointed out that the senior leader was a member of the political affairs group set up by Congress president Sonia Gandhi after the Udaipur Chintan Shivir. “It is strange to include him in a similar committee in a state as a member. These are mindless decisions,” the leader said.
Listing Azad’s long career, another senior Congress functionary said: “He has been a minister with five prime ministers, Leader of the Opposition for seven years, a former chief minister, a member of the Congress Working Committee for 37 years, been in-charge of every state for the party. And now, those sitting in the AICC are appointing him as campaign committee chief of a UT! I can only pity these leaders.”
One clear message from the revamp was the preference for Jammu leaders. Some welcomed this, pointing out that the party needed to refocus on the Hindu-dominated regions of the erstwhile state where it once held sway, and where the BJP has been steadily displacing it – especially the Chenab Valley region, comprising Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban districts, besides Jammu district.
The Congress, that won 17 Assembly seats in predominantly Hindu-inhabited areas of the Jammu province in 2002 and 13 seats in 2008, could not win a single seat in the 2014 Assembly elections.
It is the first time that both the Congress’s president and working president for J&K are from Jammu. Even Saroori, included in the campaign committee, is reflective of this focus on Jammu.
However, the move will hardly go down well with the Kashmir wing of the party.
Plus, it is unclear how a panel that accommodates all the warring factions will function going ahead. Supporters of Azad, Soz and Mir are accused by the other side of not being cooperative enough.