Former Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, 59, who resigned from the Congress on Tuesday along with over 60 other party workers, including former ministers and ex-legislators, is a prominent Dalit face of Jammu and Kashmir.
Belonging to a modest farming family from remote Chak Mahal village in border Khour sub-division of Jammu district, Chand has been part of the Congress since the late 1970s when he joined as a Class 10 student. A three-time MLA from Chhamb (now renamed as Khour), in 1996, 2002 and 2008, he lost to the BJP’s Dr Krishan Lal in the 2014 polls in the wake of the Narendra Modi wave.
Elections have not been held in J&K since.
In 1996, Chand was the only Congress leader to have won in the Jammu district’s 11 Assembly constituencies, with the party consequently making him its Legislative Party leader.
In 2002, after he won the second time and the Congress entered into a post-poll coalition with the PDP, Chand was made the Speaker of the Assembly.
His third win, in 2008, saw him become Deputy CM after the Congress aligned with the National Conference to form the government. Omar Abdullah had taken over as CM.
Chand has also been district general secretary of the Congress’s SC / OBC Cell, and general secretary of the Pradesh Youth Congress.
Many in Khour credit him with pushing for development of the remote border area during his tenure as Speaker and then as Deputy CM.
His term as Deputy CM from 2009-14 saw extension of the Central government’s education policy to Jammu and Kashmir. Chand also got a draft Bill prepared to provide the right to free education to children in J&K between 4 and 14 yrs too, but it could not get Cabinet nod.
While there have been charges of misuse of official position against him over the years, nothing has been proved against him.
Congress leader Jahanzaid Sirwal dismissed Chand’s exit from the party, saying these leaders had lost their relevance long ago. Otherwise how could they have failed to check the increasing polarisation under the BJP after 2014, he said.
Sirwal said it was due to the tag of the Congress that leaders like Chand had risen so high in J&K, and accused them of compromising the interests of party workers.