JAMMU, Nov 19: J&K unit of the Congress party, which has been sharing power with the NC in the state, is gripped intense infighting. It is divided into many groups and each group leader is trying to outwit the other, thus further weakening the already rather weak and unpopular party in the state. The Congress is not only divided into two main groups, one each being led by the JKPCC president, Saif-ud-Din Soz, whose views on J&K are more or less similar to the ones held by the three Kashmir-based parties, including the NC and the CPI-M, and Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare and former J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. The views of Azad on J&K are different from the views of the NC and the CPI-M as well as the Army and paramilitary forces. Azad is a bitter critic of those who demand demilitarization and withdrawal of such laws like the AFSPA.
Soz and Azad hardly share common platform. They operate from different platforms. Soz has his supporters in the persons of JKPCC office-bearers like Dharmpal Sharma, Hari Singh, Ravinder Sharma, Sardar Gurmukh Singh and former ministers like Mula Ram, besides Chairman of Legislative Council Amrit Malhotra, ministers like Revenue Minister Raman Bhalla, Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma and MP Madan Lal Sharma. Azad, on the other hand, his supporters in the persons of Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Tourism Minister Rigzin Jora, and Minister of State Manohar Lal Sharma, besides MP Lal Singh, former Deputy Speaker Janak Raj Gupta, former ministers Abdul Gani Vakil, Yogesh Sawhney, Gharu Ram, to mention only a few. His other loyalists include at least four MLCs, including former Chief Secretary B R Kundal, Jugal Kishore Sharma, Subhash Gupta and Naresh Gupta. The supporters and loyalists of Soz never attend any of the functions organized by the Azad loyalists and the vice-versa.
There are other senior leaders in the party, including former Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma, who have been hobnobbing both with Soz and Azad believing such an approach could help them fulfill their personal interests. They have their own style of functioning and they seldom air views which could annoy even the NC leaders. Take, for example, the attitude of Sharma towards the "anti-India" statement, which was made by NC additional general secretary Mustafa Kamaal at Kishtwar on November 11. His statement can counter to the statement made of Azad at Kathua on Saturday last. Sharma told media persons that we should not question the clarification issued by Kamaal. He did not utter a word against Kamaal despite the fact that at least six Congress legislators from the erstwhile Doda district and Ghulam Nabi Azad had lambasted Kamaal and demanded stringent action against him.
Medical Education and Sports Minister R S Chib has also been trying his best to establish good relations both with Soz and Azad. The reasons are obvious. Then there are individuals like Flood and Irrigation Minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din who operate independently of the JKPCC leadership and factional leaders like Azad. They are close to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and their objective, it seems, is to keep him in good humour so that their personal interests are safeguarded and further promoted and they are able to protect themselves from the clutches of law. They claim that they have been strengthening Chief Minister Omar Abdullah (read NC) at the behest of the Congress high command (read Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi). They are the ones who are vehemently opposed to the idea of Omar Abdullah being replaced as Chief Minister by some Congress leader. It was they who had ridiculed and snubbed the JKPCC chief and his loyalists and votaries of rotational chief minister months before Omar Abdullah completed three years in office and declared that Omar Abdullah will complete full term of six years in office.
This is the state of affairs as far as the J&K Congress is concerned. It would be no exaggeration to say that the state Congress leadership is in a self-destruction mode. As for the ministers, without any exception, they are basically ministers of their respective constituencies. The fall-out is disconnect and mistrust between them and people, especially the constituencies which are not represented in the Council of Ministers. The Congress party will be decimated by the people in the event of the Congress leadership not putting its house in order.