The Padma Shri award for senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has excited his loyalists in Jammu and Kashmir Congress, who say, he is now natural choice to be Congress president in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The Padma Shri award is not from the BJP. It is from the Government of India for services rendered by Ghulam Nabi Azad for the country over the past 40 years. Azad Sahab is above parochial politics. He is believes in the unity of Hindu, Muslim, Sikhs and Dalits. His message is not for one region or one religion but for everyone,” says Congress leader Ghulam Mohammad Saroori.
Saroori is seen close to Azad and considered as among his loyalists. He says people in Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmir still remember his period as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir as golden period for the state.
“When he was Chief Minister there was development all around. He represented peoples’ aspirations. That is why we want to see him back in Jammu and Kashmir,” he adds.
For past three months Azad is one of the most active politicians in Jammu and Kashmir visiting different constituencies across J&K, seeking early restoration of J&K’s statehood followed by the elections. Since revocation of Article 370, Azad was the first and only mainstream leader beyond BJP, who would say there is no point in raising the Article 370 issue and insisted on restoration of Statehood and early Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
Saroori referring to JKPCC chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir, says that those who have not appreciated the conferring of Padma Shri award to Azad are afraid f his growing popularity in all regions of Jammu and Kashmir. “I don’t see anyone except Azad sahab any leader in Congress. We want Azad sahab to be next JKPCC president and he be declared as Chief Ministerial candidate. Then and then only we can have Congress government in J&K,” he adds.
Another Congress leader Salman Nizami says Azad will continue to be in Congress. “There are many who want to spread rumours that he is leaving Congress. He is not leaving Congress. He wants some reforms in Congress and any Congress loyalist and diehard Congressman will be passionate about reforms within Congress to see it back in the seat of power,” he adds.
While a large number of Congress leaders in J&K are excited over Padma Shri award to Azad, many in Congress party in J&K including its president GA Mir are silent about it.
In November last year a number aof senior Congress leaders resigned from different positions they were holding in the state Congress as they are openly asking Congress’s Centre leadership to appoint Azad as the PCC chief in place of present incumbent Ghulam Ahmad Mir.
Mir is holding the position of J&K Congress president for the past seven years. Those who resigned from various Congress positions are considered as loyalists of Azad, though they say they had taken the decision independently. Their argument is that with Mir at helm Congress has shrunk in Jammu and Kashmir and only Azad can transform it into a force in J&K and could bring it into power.
However, Azad’s detectors say he will not be able do much for Congress Party’s in J&K. They argue that Azad has won only election in J&K after he became Chief Minister.
Azad fought last election in J&K in 2014 and his primary competitor was Dr Jitendra Singh of BJP. Singh was elected to the Lok Sabha after defeating Azad by a margin of 60,976 votes. Singh was polled 4,87,369 votes while Azad was polled 4,26,393 votes.
Saroori says the situation in J&K has changed since 2014. “You will see different results today. Let them hold election,” he adds.