The sudden decision of former union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to quit the Congress, and his scalding attack on Rahul Gandhi, has shifted the focus of Jammu and Kashmir’s frozen politics, as well as that of fissures within the party, onto the veteran Congress leader.
In his resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi, Azad alleged that the Congress was “comprehensively destroyed” and had reached a point of no return.
Azad asserted in his resignation that the Congress had conceded “national political space to the BJP” and “state level space to regional parties”. It was enough indication that the veteran leader wanted to test his luck in Jammu and Kashmir politics now.
Azad, who remained the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir from 2005-2008, has a huge following in the J&K unit of the Congress. In all likelihood, if he decides to launch his own party, most of the leaders could join him in the coming days.
A shrewd politician, Azad is being seen as the best bet for the vexed issue of Kashmir by political pundits and politicians alike. Late last year, the septuagenarian politician held huge political rallies across Jammu and Kashmir.
“In the coming weeks, most of the leaders and workers of the Jammu and Kashmir unit of Congress may join Azad if he floats his own party, which is most likely going to happen. In the next Assembly election in J&K, Azad will emerge as a key player,” said a senior Jammu and Kashmir Congress leader, who wished to remain unnamed, told DH.
The senior Congress leader said that a large group of leaders and workers were in constant touch with Azad about the formation of a new party. “Azad enjoys support of most of the leadership in J&K. Jammu region, where the Congress party’s vote bank lies, has no issues with scrapping of Article 370. (But) people in Jammu want restoration of statehood and some guarantees on jobs and land rights, which is something Azad has already demanded,” the leader added.
The 73-year-old former Union minister was known to have quite strong views on Article 370, and almost all outstanding issues within Jammu and Kashmir. “The BJP government has achieved its aim of scrapping Article 370, and now wants democratic process to flourish in J&K. There can’t be anybody better than Azad to lead the process at the moment,” political analyst and TV debater Majid Hyderi told DH.
J&K has been under the Union government’s rule since June 19, 2018, following the collapse of a coalition government headed by Mehbooba Mufti after the pullout of its partner BJP. Much awaited Assembly elections are expected to be held next year in April-May.