After Azad’s exit, Congress now engaged in a fight on two fronts

Azad has categorically said he can't increase even one vote of the BJP and the allegation that he will join the BJP is false.

New Delhi: After the exit of former J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Congress is fighting on two fronts — one to keep its flock together and also to challenge the BJP in the Union Territory. The Congress is the party which has a presence in the Jammu region and could have damaged the BJP, but the latest political developments have forced the party to rethink.

As Azad prepares to hold a rally on Sunday to gauge to mood of his supporters, many party MLAs have put in their papers in his support and he is likely to form his own party. This will be the first election in four decades that the Congress will contest without Azad.

Azad has categorically said he can’t increase even one vote of the BJP and the allegation that he will join the BJP is false.

On September 4 his supporters are rallying in a show of strength. They are elated that some former Congress leaders like Naresh Gupta, a former legislator from Bhaderwah, have resigned to join Azad. Gupta says the region’s interests are served better under Azad.

“Twelve leaders of the Congress in Jammu and Kashmir were trying to get an appointment with Rahul Gandhi for the last three years but failed,” Gupta said.

Azad contested and won the Assembly election from Bhaderwah with a record margin after becoming Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Minister in 2006.

However Congress in-charge of the Union Territory, Rajni Patil asserts that there will be no damage and many Congress leaders will return to the party fold. The Congress is in a dilemma since the National Conference has announced that it will go solo in the polls. The party cannot afford to go with the PDP despite Mehbooba Mufti meeting Sonia Gandhi recently.

The party has tried to galvanise the state unit and appointed a new committee under a new president but Azad’s revolt has nixed the party’s efforts to put up a united front ahead of the elections. Newly appointed Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Vikar Rasool Wani has accused Ghulam Nabi Azad of playing ‘immoral politics’.

Wani, who was always seen as being close to Azad in the J&K Congress, said betraying the Congress after 50 years was playing immoral politics. He accused Azad of never giving him any idea about parting ways with the Congress.

As the Chief Minister of the state from 2005 to 2008, Azad had a very clean and positive image. He pushed the developmental agenda and also created new administrative districts in J&K during that period. Now, his followers contesting from the new party will damage the Congress prospects.

In the Jammu division, Azad is most likely to upset the political applecart of the NC, PDP and the Congress. His image in the Muslim-dominated constituencies in Doda, Kishtwar, Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban and other districts is far better than his rivals. In the Hindu majority constituencies of the Jammu division as well, Azad is seen as a tall, secular and nationalist leader who has done much for the welfare of the common man. Out of the 43 assembly seats in the Jammu division, he has a scale tilting presence in nearly 17 seats.

In the 2014 Assembly polls the Congress fought alone and got a 18 percent vote share under the leadership of Azad, but could win only 12 seats. It lost five seats it had won in the previous election. Before the election, the Congress broke its alliance with the National Conference and contested on all the assembly seats.

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