Deserting Ghulam Nabi Azad, 17 leaders rejoin Congress

Loyalists' return to boost party in upcoming assembly elections


January 6, 2023

/ By / New Delhi

Deserting Ghulam Nabi Azad, 17 leaders rejoin Congress

Seventeen senior leaders rejoined Congress after resigning from Democratic Azad Party led by Ghulam Nabi Azad (Photo: Mohsina Malik)

In a big boost for the Congress in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of the arrival of Bharat Jodo Yatra, led by Rahul Gandhi, entering the state on January 26, several senior leaders, including former Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Tara Chand, rejoined the party, months after leaving the party with former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

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Over half a dozen senior leaders, including former Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Tara Chand rejoined the Congress at a function on Friday morning at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters in New Delhi.

Besides Chand, the other prominent leaders who returned to the Congress’s fold included former PCC President Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed and three former ministers Manohar Lal, Balwan Singh, Mohammad Muzaffar Parray and dozens of others.

All of them were the members of Democratic Azad Party (DAP), led by former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who had left the Congress in August 2022.

K C Venugopal, General Secretary of Congress, welcomed the leaders back into the fold. “It was a great occasion for the party before the Bharat Jodo Yatra will enter the Jammu and Kashmir as our stalwarts of J&K Congress had left us due to some misunderstanding and now they have come back,” Venugopal said.

“It was like these leaders had taken a leave from the party for two months and now that leave is over,” he added.

The rebels returning to the party defended their decision to desert Azad barely months after leaving the Congress. “We had spent all our life in the Congress. However, in between, a situation arose when we, swayed by emotions, took a wrong step in haste. It was a wrong decision. The party, which gave a poor person like me an identity… made me an MLA, CLP leader… Assembly Speaker, Deputy Speaker… I believe it was the biggest blunder of our lives to leave the Congress, swayed by emotions and influenced by somebody’s friendship,” Tara Chand told the reporters at the event.

“I apologise to the people of Kashmir, the people of India and to my party. I could not sleep for the last two months. There was so much pressure on me, not just from the people but from my family too because there is an emotional bond between the Gandhi family and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The people of J&K still love the Gandhi family,’’ Peerzada said.

The former rebels say that the return of several political leaders from the Jammu and Kashmir will pave the way for the Congress to build a close relation with the people of the state, carry out development there in a better manner, and hold elections in upcoming months.

The first impact of the rebels returning to the party fold will be felt at the Bharat Jodo Yatra, led by party leader Rahul Gandhi, that is scheduled to reach Srinagar on January 26. Several leaders of Jammu & Kashmir, even leaders of other parties, have been invited to join the yatra and many have accepted.

‘‘Those who believe in the Congress ideology are welcome to join the Bharat Jodo Yatra. We have invited all like-minded parties to join the Yatra adding that Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti will join the Yatra along with Rahul Gandhi in Srinagar,” Venugopal said, refusing to say whether Azad was expected to join the Yatra.

The party leaders say that the return of the leaders would also help the Congress in the forthcoming assembly elections, the first since the state was truncated and turned into a union territory by the Narendra Modi government in August 2019. But some disagree. “Though Bharat Jodo Yatra will enter the state in the upcoming days, I do not see a positive change either it is just building a good image in front of the public or just for political gains. These political parties are the same when it comes to power and as elections are near maybe, it is for that. During their tenure, they have done nothing and the people of Jammu and Kashmir can’t be fooled or made scapegoats for political gains, Sehar Qazi, a journalist based in Srinagar tells Media India Group.

“Resigning from a party then joining another is not new for these politicians. I do not know how Congress is saying we are approaching like-minded people when they have been the staunch BJP or any other party. It is a futile step,” Qazi adds.

“Maybe they are planning something big but are not revealing. We can’t rely on their promises when the situation in Kashmir is different from other states in many ways,” says Maqbool Hassan, a professor at Kashmir University.

“Saying we are connecting to the people, uniting them, and raising the issues. I do not feel it is happening on the ground,” adds Hassan.



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