Cong's Ghulam Nabi Azad thaws J&K's frozen politics

Congress ‘dissenter’ Azad making his presence felt in J&K’s frozen politics

For the last two weeks, the septuagenarian politician has been holding huge political rallies across Jammu and Kashmir

Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam Nabi Azad. Credit: PTI Photo

Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is part of Congress’s G-23 group of ‘dissenters’, is making his presence felt in Jammu and Kashmir politics which had been frozen since the abrogation of the erstwhile state’s special status in August 2019.

Azad, a shrewd politician, is being seen as the best bet on the vexed issue by political pundits and politicians alike.

For the last two weeks, the septuagenarian politician has been holding huge political rallies across Jammu and Kashmir. In the same period, a large number of senior Congress leaders in J&K have resigned from different positions and openly asked the central leadership to appoint Azad as the party’s J&K chief in place of incumbent Ghulam Ahmad Mir. Their argument is that with Mir at the helm, Congress has shrunk in J&K and only Azad can transform it into a force and bring it into power.

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Mir was not present at any of the rallies addressed by the Congress ‘dissenter’ in the last two weeks.

In his addresses, he has been calling for immediate restoration of J&K’s statehood and holding of Assembly polls, which is something which even Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have promised several times in the last two years.

Azad, who was Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha till the beginning of this year, is not making any fiery speeches on the restoration of J&K’s special status unlike regional party leaders and former CMs Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

“I don’t talk about Article 370 because it is in the Supreme Court. The present government cannot restore Article 370 as it has abrogated it. And we don’t have 300 parliament members to restore it and there seems no possibility for Congress to have 300 seats by 2024,” he said in one of the rallies.

It is pertinent to mention here that while bidding a tearful farewell to Azad on February 9 in the Upper House, the Prime Minister had said that he respects the veteran leader as a “true friend” and will not let him retire, and will continue taking his advice.”

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Political analyst Zafar Choudhary says he can’t rule out Azad coming up with another party in J&K.

“So far, he (Azad) has held all rallies under the Congress banner and flag. The response of people in these rallies can compel the Congress high command to hand over J&K to Azad or work out a middle path. If it doesn’t work, then he has his options open,” he said.

Choudhary added that whether Azad remains in Congress or not, “he will be a key player as and when assembly polls are held in J&K".

There is a possibility that the Centre will hold elections in J&K next summer as the Delimitation Commission set up in March 2020 is set to complete the process before the onset of spring in Kashmir.