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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Azad may return to J&K to fulfill AICC’s 2014-2020 ambition

Cong collegium authorizes Sonia Gandhi to appoint new JKPCC chief, office-bearers

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 19: Eying on the hot seat of power in Jammu and Kashmir for 2014-2020, Sonia Gandhi and her All India Congress Committee (AICC) have almost decided to send Ghulam Nabi Azad back to the politically instable northern state in near future. Even as the final decision would be taken by 10 Janpath later this month or early next month, the collegium of Pradesh Congress Committee members today authorized Mrs Gandhi for appointing the new JKPCC President, Vice President and other office-bearers in total restructuring of the state unit.

Years after holding a major rally at Sher-e-Kashmir Park, on May 21st 2006, and Sonia Gandhi’s historic address to over 10,000 party workers, including thousands of students and Anganwari Workers at SKICC lawns, JKPCC today organized a rare show of unity at SKICC. Although Mrs Gandhi was not in attendance, almost all of the AICC’s stalwarts related to J&K attended the day-long conclave.

Significantly, members of both the rival factions---one headed by JKPCC President Prof Saif-ud-din Soz and another by union Health Minister and former J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad---jointly participated in the meeting, first time in the last five years of infighting. While as Prof Soz was already camping in Srinagar and AICC’s General Secretary incharge J&K, Mohan Prakash, and General Secretary incharge party Elections, Janardhan Dviwedi, had reached here yesterday. Mr Azad by a forenoon flight from New Delhi today.

Deliberations began at 11.30 a.m in a closed-door hall which was kept out-of-bounds for media. Over 20 leaders are said to have addressed the gathering of 342 newly nominated JKPCC members drawn from all three regions of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. Sources present in the meeting later said that all Ministers, MLAs, MLCs, Lok Sabha members, Rajya Sabha members and senior leaders attended the conclave.

Highly placed sources in AICC revealed to Early Times that main objective of holding the conference in Srinagar was to end factionalism and authorize Mrs Gandhi to appoint the new President, Vice President, General Secretaries and other office-bearers of JKPCC. With the formality carried out through a political resolution, AICC Chairperson would be making the nominations sometime later this month or early in June.

Sources said that elections had already been conducted in other states and almost all the state units had been restructured through democratic processes but J&K had been left intact, mainly because of “some factionalism” and the AICC top brass’s preoccupation with the Assembly elections in U.P.

Consequently, 48-year-long tradition of making the restructuring by nominations was being repeated in J&K. This is the only state in the country, where party elections on all levels have been held only once when, in the year 1972, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ayub Khan fought a pitched battle for Presidency of JKPCC. Mufti defeated Khan and functioned as the elected President for full term of three years. Later, he too functioned as nominated President for several terms. Previously, Khan too had functioned as a nominated President of JKPCC.

Then a Cabinet Minister in UPA-1, Prof Soz had been appointed as President of JKPCC when Pirzada Mohammad Sayeed was forced to resign, both as Minister incharge School Education in Chief Minister Azad’s coalition government in J&K as well as head of the state unit of his party, in the wake of uproar in Assembly over the Independent MLA Shuaib Lone’s allegation against the Minister in 2007. Lone had charged Pirzada with demanding and accepting bribe, through his spouse, for recognition of an ETT School owned by the MLA’s sister. Soz is continuously holding the state unit headship even after failing to become a Minister in UPA-2.

Without holding elections, AICC in New Delhi has recently nominated over 300 members for the JKPCC collegium. Under the party constitution, one member has to be elected from each block in the state. Loyalists of both the factions have been duly accommodated. They include Soz and Azad, nominated from Baramulla and Bhaderwah respectively, and rebellious Abdul Gani Vakil, nominated from Rafiabad Sopore. AICC General Secretary incharge J&K got the list of nominee members approved by Mrs Gandhi earlier this month.

According to the party constitution, elections have to be conducted for all the top office-bearers, including President. However, the practice of constituting the JKPCC collegium by nominations, and subsequently authorizing the AICC President to appoint JKPCC President and other office-bearers, is being repeated yet again in J&K.

Sources revealed that the deliberations commenced when two resolutions were moved for consideration and passage. Deputy Chief Minister, Tara Chand, moved the main political resolution whereby AICC President was to be authorized to appoint new office-bearers and constitute the Executive Committees. It was unanimously passed after a number of senior and middle ranking Congress leaders spoke on it in detail.

Another resolution was moved by Mr Azad. It appreciated the heavy peoples participation in last year’s Panchayat elections and hailed the coalition government. It however stressed on implementing amendments to articles 73 and 74 of the Constitution of India so as to fully empower Panchs and Sarpanchs. It called upon the state government to hold the elections for constitution of Block Development Councils and District Development Councils without more delay. This resolution was also unanimously passed after a great deal of deliberations on it.

If well-placed sources in AICC are to be believed, Congress has almost decided to send Mr Azad back to Srinagar and Jammu for preparing ground for his party’s “historic victory” in the forthcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections of 2014. According to these sources, there was a strong possibility that Azad would retain his berth in the union Cabinet while simultaneously functioning as JKPCC chief. However, Prof Soz’s replacement at this stage and his rehabilitation at some other position in the party or government was still under consideration.

According to these sources, both the elections in J&K in 2014 would be contested without any pre-polling seat adjustment with other parties, a senior leader of the party said. According to him, neither the AICC and UPA allies nor the bureaucracy was satisfied with the way National Conference-led government had conducted politics and carried out governance in the last four years.

“It has been noticed with immense disappointment that corruption and maladministration was spiraling, development was running with snail’s pace despite huge Central funding which was either being plundered with impunity or had remained unutilized to a large extent”, said the Congress leader. On the other hand, according to him, the NC leadership had neither neutralized the separatist politics nor promoted nationalism and patriotism in Kashmir despite drastic improvement in situation and mass rejection of the separatist leadership after September 2010.

“Be it shake up in GB Pant hospital or transfers of officers, Hurriyat leaders are calling the shots in every matter despite losing their base remarkably in the last 20 months”, observed another Congress leader. According to him, Congress was under tremendous pressure from its cadres to task Mr Azad once again for creating a “developmental constituency” and taking dividends of peace to a logical conclusion.

He said that the party could duly accommodate Mr Soz as a Governor or Ambassador to any country in case AICC chief took the final decision of sending Mr Azad back to J&K. He said that, in the wake of complete dismemberment of BJP, Congress had all the prospects of sweeping the polls in 37-segment Jammu province and Ladakh and also bagging 4 to 8 seats in Kashmir, thus emerging as the single largest party in the next Assembly elections. He asserted that the next Chief Minister would be essentially from the single largest party and Congress would keep its doors open for its allies---be that NC or PDP---to form the government for 2014-2020.


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