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8 J&K Cong leaders quit in support of Azad, more likely to go; may announce new party

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Other leaders flay him, says party gave him “everything in platter”

Srinagar/Jammu: Hours after former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad quit the Congress, eight senior party leaders including three former ministers resigned the party’s primary membership, with sources indicating they may form a new party soon.

More leaders, perceived to be close to Azad, are contemplating to resign, the sources said.

Former ministers R S Chib, G M Saroori and Abdul Rashid; former MLAs Mohammad Amin Bhat, Gulzar Ahmad Wani and Choudhary Mohammad Akram; former MLC Naresh Gupta and party leader Salman Nizami have resigned in Azad’s support, sources said.

“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, the Congress party has lost its momentum in contributing towards the future of my State.

“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 party has not been able to play the role that is expected of it,” Chib said in his resignation letter addressed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Saroori, a former vice-president of J&K unit of Congress, along with several other leaders met Azad in Delhi before submitting their resignation from the party, the sources said.

“Azad is a popular leader who served Congress for the last 50 years. He is a known face across the country for his contribution towards national building,” Saroori told reporters after holding a meeting with Azad at his Delhi residence.

Earlier, Saroori uploaded a joint resignation letter on his social media account, announcing Rashid, Bhat, Wani and Akram were quitting the party.

“He cannot stay out of politics…his services are needed in J&K and we are sure that he will be the next chief minister of the state (UT). People of J&K also love their leaders and are ready to give any sacrifice for him,” Saroori said, dropping enough hints that Azad is likely to float his own party.

Most of the Congress leaders, who are seen to be loyal to Azad, have already reached New Delhi and are camping there.

The sources indicated the veteran Congress leader is likely to float a new party next month as the union territory prepares for the first Assembly elections since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.

The sources said former deputy chief minister Tara Chand, former MP Jugal Kishore Sharma and Muneer Ahmad Mir from Kupwara are also mulling to resign from the Congress.

The leaders are also considered close confidants of Azad, the sources said.

“We, the senior party leaders, are holding a meeting in the aftermath of the new developments. We will be meeting Azad sahib as well,” Chand said.

But there are several other leaders in J&K Congress who did not endorse Azad’s decision.

Recently designated Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president Vikar Rasool Wani — also seen as an Azad loyalist — and his predecessor G A Mir, who belonged to the rival camp, said they will work with double the resolve now to strengthen the party at the grassroots in the union territory.

Wani said Azad quitting the party was very sad and shocking. “He should not have done it.”

“But we will work overtime and double our efforts” to rejuvenate the party in the union territory.”

Wani said the JKPCC stands with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “We will be guided by her leadership,” he said.

Former PCC president Ghulam Ahmad Mir said it was unfortunate that Azad, who was given important posts during his 45 years in the Congress, fled the battlefield when asked to do something for the party in J&K.

“The Congress bestowed on him everything in the past 40 years to make him one of the biggest voices to emerge from Jammu and Kashmir. Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, CWC membership, chiefministership…everything was served to him on a platter,” Mir said.

Saifuddin Soz, another former PCC chief, said Azad should not have left the party.

“It is my love of Azad sahib that I am saying this. He should have stayed within the party. He had a stature in the Congress which he would not get elsewhere,” Soz said.

Congress Working Committee member Tariq Hameed Karra holes in claims made by Ghulam Nabi Azad in his resignation letter on lack of consultative process in the party after 2013.

“If consultative process of Congress party had ceased 2(to) exist since 2013 & forthcoming Presidential elections of the party is a sham, then who got d(the) proposal of RG (Rahul Gandhi) becoming Congress President passed in 2018 AICC plenary session with authority 2(to) choose his team & nominate CWC members,” Karra tweeted.

He was responding to Azad’s claim in his resignation letter that Rahul Gandhi destroyed the consultative mechanism that existed in the Congress after he was appointed as the vice president of the party in January 2013.

Karra posted a 23-second video clip on his Twitter handle in which Azad is singing paeans about Gandhi being the only person who can lead the Congress party and play the role of the opposition effectively.

Working president and former minister Raman Bhalla said his resignation at the current juncture is “unfortunate” as people are looking towards the party for leadership in the face of price hike, growing unemployment and deteriorating situation in J&K.

“People come and go but the party remains. We are linked to the ideology of the Congress,” he said, after chairing a meeting of the party leaders at the Congress headquarters in Jammu soon after the news about Azad’s resignation became public.

“The party will chalk out its strategy once the elections to the JK assembly are announced and will take a decision in the best interest of the people,” he said, dodging questions on the resignation’s likely impact on the party’s election prospect.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Long rumoured to be in the offing but a body blow to the Congress nonetheless. 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.”

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said she would not comment on Azad’s resignation as “it is an internal matter of the Congress party”. (With PTI inputs)

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