Ahead of the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the first after the abrogation of Article 370 three years ago, the state Congress unit on Friday found itself in disarray after the resignation of its tallest leader Ghulam Nabi Azad triggered a political storm, as eight other senior leaders, including former minister RS Chib, also quit the grand old party.
Once called the “lucky mascot” of the Congress Party, veteran leader and former Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s resignation on Friday has evoked mixed reactions from the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Mir calls it unfortunate
Azad’s bête noire and former president of the JKPCC Ghulam Ahmed Mir said, “It is very unfortunate. Congress party had invested in him for over 40 years and made him an institution. If people like him take such a decision, then it is nothing but bad luck.”
However, Mir claimed that Azad had been contemplating his exit from Congress for over a year now.
“The exercise was on for the past over a year now. He was the designer of G-23. His claims of no internal democracy in the Congress were for optics. The internal issue was he wanted to avoid the ED, CBI, IT, etc, once he was out as Leader of the Opposition because these (ED, CBI, IT) nets are everywhere now. The ultimate goal was to escape them and somehow he had developed intimacy with PM Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah to destroy Congress and save himself,” said Mir.
The Congress leader said that tears rolling down their cheeks in Parliament during the farewell speeches to Azad were not without purpose.
“Whatever he does now, the Central government will be assisting it ultimately. We were cautioned from time to time that he had got a project from the BJP to destroy the Congress internally,” he said.
“Firstly, he damaged the Congress from within because he wanted to ensure that once he left the party, there was no other big voice left in the party and today he has delivered the final blow. From day one he had this design,” said Mir.
When reminded that Azad had won many elections for the party and was called ‘lucky mascot’, Mir said, “Had he been a lucky mascot, he would have won from his home constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. A simple clinic-running doctor defeated him”.
Azad was defeated by a famous diabetologist and Union minister, Dr Jitendra Singh, by a margin of 60,976 votes in the Udhampur Lok Sabha seat, where Singh polled 4,87,369 votes while Azad got 4,26,393 votes.
However, Mir felt that with Azad’s exit, there shall be a “shudhikaran” (purification) in J&K Congress.
“For the past 30 years, the factionalism in J&K Congress was all due to Azad. While sitting at the national level and holding key positions, he used to run his J&K agenda via a chunk of people. With his exit, I think in J&K there will be purification of the Congress. Now, true Congressmen will stay back and those who run after individuals will side with him,” he said
Mir also said that Azad’s resignation will also be an acid test for the present J&K PCC president Vikar Rasool, who was recently appointed as J&K PCC president.
“It is going to be an acid test for Rasool. It has to be seen whether he follows Azad or party ideology,” he said.
Mir said, “I can’t say what would be his (Azad’s) next move, but most probably he will form his own outfit to support the BJP”.
Congress insulted Azad, says J&K BJP
J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina said, “It is an internal matter of the Congress. Who’s resigning and who’s joining the Congress, the BJP has nothing to do with it but it’s a big jolt to the Congress party”.
“Azad’s resignation letter exposed the rot prevailing in Congress. His allegations of no internal democracy in the Congress party and that it is being run by remote control are true,” said Raina.
The J&K BJP chief further said, “Azad, who for decades, strengthened the Congress Party with his sweat and blood, the same party embarrassed him, tortured him, insulted him and eventually compelled him to resign”.
When asked will he join the BJP, Raina said, “It’s his personal matter but the condition of the Congress, which was already in dire straits, has become worse”.
“Azad Sahab is a big leader and we respect him but one thing is sure that with his exit, Congress has been wiped out from J&K and India,” he added
When asked will BJP extend an invitation to Azad to join the saffron party and declare him as their CM candidate for the next J&K assembly elections, Raina said, “If he considers and wants to join us, we will definitely welcome him. However, the Central parliamentary board has to take the call on such issues (announcing CM candidate)”.
Leaving party during crisis not right, says Farooq Abdullah
Former chief minister and National Conference (NC) president Dr Farooq Abdullah expressed regrets over Azad’s decision to part ways with the Congress.
“He gave his entire life to Congress. He worked with the party since college and he rose to the highest positions in the Congress. He remained a minister in many governments, was a member of the Congress Working Committee and remained general secretary of the party. I think he was a pillar of the Congress. He was a member of the family since the times of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi,” said Farooq Abdullah.
“I feel sad that he left the Congress when it was passing through a difficult time. Had he left the party after it had come back on rails, it would have been proper but leaving it during a crisis is not right but it is his decision. I pray that Allah keeps him safe and he does all the good work strengthening the federal structure of the nation and fights against those spreading hate in the nation,” he added. Farooq further said that he hoped the Congress high command does some soul searching because 23 leaders (G23 leaders) had left the party.
Farooq’s son and former chief minister Omar Abdullah also expressed his views on Twitter.
He wrote, “Long rumoured to be in the offing but a body blow to the Congress none the less. Perhaps the senior-most leader to quit the party in recent times, his resignation letter makes for very painful reading. It’s sad, and quite scary, to see the grand old party of India implode”.
Meanwhile, Eight former Congress legislators and ex-ministers from Jammu and Kashmir on Friday resigned from the basic membership of Congress in support of Ghulam Nabi Azad who resigned from the party on Friday morning.
Among the former leaders who resigned from the Congress three are from Kashmir and five from Jammu province.
Those who resigned are former ministers GM Saroori, RS Chib and Jugal Kishore Sharma, and Choudhary Akram, Mohammad Amin Bhat, Gulzar Ahmad Wani, Haji Abdul Rashid and Naresh Gupta, all former legislators. “We the following ex-ministers and legislators of the dissolved legislative assembly of J&K here by resign from all the positions holding in the Congress party and also resign from the basic membership of the party in support of Ghulam Nabi Azad,” reads the signed resignation letter that has been circulated to the media.
Former minister Chib also submitted a separate resignation addressed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
“Over the years as a member of the Congress party, it has been my sincere endeavour to work for the betterment of my state – Jammu & Kashmir. I feel that in the prevailing circumstances, Congress party has lost its momentum in contributing towards the future of my state,” Chib said in his resignation letter.
“Keeping in view the turmoil that the state of J&K has witnessed over the past decades, the people require a decisive leader like Azad to guide them towards a better future. I feel that the Congress has not been able to play the role that is expected of it,” the letter further said.
Five leaders who resigned today are already camping in Delhi and are considered close to Azad.
Haji Abdul Rashid, two-time former legislator from north Kashmir’s Sopore assembly constituency, had resigned soon after Congress announced former legislator Vikar Rasool as the new J&KPCC president.
Meanwhile, more resignations are in the offing as many other Congress J&K leaders are contemplating quitting the party.
“We will be meeting tonight and only after discussion with others we will be issuing a statement,” said one of the senior Congress leaders from Kashmir.
Last year, Azad held a series of rallies in Jammu and Kashmir and only leaders loyal to Azad had attended those rallies and many leaders have been dropping hints that Azad could form his own political party. With today’s resignation of Azad, many Congress leaders admitted that the former J&K chief minister could launch his own party.
Earlier when Vikar Rasool’s name was announced as the new J&K Congress president, Azad was assigned to head the campaign committee, however, he had refused to take the assignment.