Factional war in J&K Cong heats up

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 3/3/2021 10:35:52 AM

Cong workers hold anti-Azad, pro-Azad demonstrations

JAMMU, Mar 02: Factional war in the Jammu and Kashmir unit of Congress today deepened over the controversial remarks recently made by senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and added to the existing confusion, compelling President of J&K Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC), Ghulam Ahmed Mir to airdash to Delhi for briefing the party high command.
The fissures were laid bare today here as different factions of Congress activists staged anti and pro-Azad protests today while the senior JKPCC leadership was clueless about the developments.
Congress workers, led by general secretary of the party’s Jammu and Kashmir unit and District Development Council (DDC) member Mohammad Shahnawaz Choudhary, burnt Azad’s effigy outside the Press Club this afternoon and accused him of conspiring against the party at the behest of the BJP to weaken it for “personal gains”.
Amid sloganeering in support of Rahul Gandhi, he said they took to the streets to give vent to their anger. They raised slogans against Azad and demanded his ouster from the party.
“It is the Congress that groomed him over the decades, gave him top positions in the party, sent him to the Rajya Sabha repeatedly and made him the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir,” Choudhary said.
“When the Congress is facing a crisis and he should have used his experience to strengthen the party, he comes to Jammu and Kashmir with a select group of G-23 leaders and showers praises on Prime Minister Modi to weaken the party for his personal interests,” he said, accusing Azad of conspiring against the Congress leadership.
Choudhary, who was earlier heading the JK Youth Congress recently won the District Development Council polls from the Surankot in Poonch as an Independent.
Choudhary said Azad stayed away from the DDC poll campaigning and invited a select group of G-23 leaders to a function organised by the Gandhi Global Family and Gujjar Charitable Trust.
“Congress workers are not fools. He enjoyed the benefits when the Congress was in power and when the time came for him to pay back to the party, he is conspiring against it,” he alleged.
Choudhary said Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are the “real leaders” for every Congress worker and the G-23 leaders are conspiring against them. “We are the foot soldiers of the party and anyone conspiring against the party leadership will have to face our anger,” he said.
Later in the day, another group of their colleagues came out in Azad’s support, bringing a rift within the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the party to the fore.
This group of Congress workers, led by JMC Councillor Gaurav Chopra and Ashwini Handa, staged a protest against Choudhary. He levelled counter allegations that Choudhary “was working on the directions of the BJP and the RSS to weaken the Congress”.
Chopra defended Azad and said that “he (Azad) strongly raised the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in the Parliament when the Centre revoked Article 370 and throughout his career.” He said that the G-23 leaders, who spoke at a private function here on Saturday, called for the strengthening of the party.
Chief spokesperson of the Jammu and Kashmir Congress Ravinder Sharma said the party had no prior knowledge of the two protests in the city. what happened was not in the prior knowledge of the party.
He said that the JKPCC approves of neither Azad’s remarks, as have appeared in the media, nor the two protests.
He added that a call on the matter would be taken at a much senior level by the All India Congress Committee, explaining, “Azad is a very senior member of the AICC and has been a former chief minister and union minister. It is not within our jurisdiction to seek an explanation from him. As for Choudhary, by virtue of the fact that he was an elected president of the Youth Congress he was a member of the AICC and, therefore, the issue would be dealt with by AICC.”
Sharma admitted that the JKPCC had earlier served a show cause notice to Shahnawaz Choudhary when he contested the DDC election against the party mandate but the matter is to be decided by the AICC.
According to a PTI report, senior vice president of the Jammu and Kashmir Congress and former minister Raman Bhalla expressed displeasure over the protests and said the party would take note of the developments.
“We are proud of his speeches in Parliament, especially after the abrogation of Article 370,” he said, adding that every Congress worker supports the leadership of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.
Meanwhile, Ghulam Ahmad Mir, the chief of Congress in Jammu & Kashmir, has been called to Delhi to discuss the protests. According to a IANS report, Mir said that he is “dismayed” over Azad’s ‘doublespeak’, praising the prime minister in Jammu, reported IANS.
Mir left for Delhi immediately after the crisis started. Sources within Congress said that he had already met the top party leadership of the AICC and briefed them about the matter. Sharma confirmed the same. Another report said that Mir today met Congress general secretary in-charge KC Venugopal and the state in-charge Rajni Patil. He reportedly apprised the senior leadership of the party that Congress unit workers in Jammu are upset over the statement of Azad about Modi.
Today’s development comes days after Azad held a meeting of a faction of top Congress leaders ‘G-23’ in Jammu, which is seen as an open revolt against the party leadership.
The group of 23 Congress leaders had written to interim party president Sonia Gandhi in August last year, urging her to ensure a “full-time” and “visible” leadership. The group has since come to be known as the “G-23”.
At a function organized by Gandhi Global Family and Gujjar Cjaritable Trust here on Sunday, Azad praised Modi, saying he speaks frankly about his past as a tea-seller and does not try to hide his background from the world.
“I admire several things about a number of leaders…. I am from a village and I am proud of it. A big leader, our prime minister, says he is from a village, he used to sell tea. We may have political differences but at least, he does not hide his reality,” he had said.
On February 28, Azad lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi as someone who “does not hide his true self” and for his “humble background as a tea-seller”.
PM Modi had earlier in February teared up and delivered an emotionally charged speech on Azad’s retirement from the Rajya Sabha. Modi had bid farewell to Azad on February 9, calling him a “true friend”.

 

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