Press Trust of india

All set for Azad’s first public rally in Jammu since leaving Cong

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Another senior leader Ashok Sharma resigns from party

Jammu: Ghulam Nabi Azad, who recently broke his five-decade-long association with the Congress, will begin his fresh political journey Sunday from Jammu where he would set up the first unit of his own party.

All preparations have been completed for Azad’s first public rally in Jammu, a close aide of the former chief minister said on the eve of the public meeting.

“Azad would be accorded a grand reception on his arrival from Delhi Sunday morning, and a procession would accompany him to the venue of the public meeting at the Sainik Colony,” former minister G M Saroori said.

Saroori is among over two dozen prominent legislators who resigned from the Congress in support of Azad.

The 73-year-old Azad is likely to announce the formation of his own political party.

Azad, 73, ended his five-decade association with the Congress on August 26, terming the party “comprehensively destroyed”. He also lashed out at Rahul Gandhi for “demolishing” the party’s entire consultative mechanism.

Since Azad’s resignation, a former deputy chief minister, eight former ministers, a former MP, nine legislators besides a large number of Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) members, municipal corporators and grassroots workers from across Jammu and Kashmir defected to the Azad camp.

Hoardings and banners welcoming Azad have been put up at the Satwari chowk along the Jammu-Airport road and in the route leading to the venue of the public rally, where seating arrangements for over 20,000 people have been made.

“All those who resigned in support of Azad will be present at the public meeting,” Saroori, who was busy over the past week in making arrangements for the public meeting, told PTI.

He said over 3,000 supporters of Azad, representing different sections of society, have expressed desire to join hands with him at the public meeting.

“It is very difficult to manage such a large number of joinings…we have worked out a formula to make them raise their hands in support of Azad to welcome the new entrants,” he said.

He said people from different political parties are also in touch with them and “we are expecting a tsunami of support in favour of Azad in coming times.”

“People have tested Azad during his chief ministership (from November 2005 to July 2008) and are eagerly waiting for his return as the next chief minister,” he said.

He said the Azad-led party would be a reality on the political map of Jammu and Kashmir ahead of the next Assembly elections which are likely to be held after the completion of the ongoing process of special summary revision of the electoral rolls on November 25.

Meanwhile, Congress leader and former legislator from Jammu and Kashmir Ashok Sharma on Saturday wrote to party president Sonia Gandhi and resigned from the organisation.

The national coordinator of the All India Congress Committee’s ‘Vichar Vibhag’ and a member of Pradesh Executive Committee, stated that he took the “painful” decision due to the “prevailing situation and unavoidable circumstances”.

In his letter, Sharma who had won the Assembly elections from Kalakote constituency of Rajouri district in 1996, said, “I loved my party from the core of my heart and fought for building it at the grass-root level for decades together from smaller territorial units to many states of the country.” (With PTI inputs)

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