The Congress party’s growing clout in Jammu and Kashmir became obvious on Monday when 15 prominent people, including close associates of ruling National Conference (NC) and the state largest opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), were announced as members of the party by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Among those who joined the party include former information director Farooq Renzu. The bureaucrat raked a major controversy by heading a Barelvi Sufi movement, which has its centres in Bareilly, during his service tenure. His personal security guard was also shot at by militants.
The big ticket entry from the ruling NC into the Congress is Muhammad Aslam Goni. Goni was a political adviser to former chief minister and NC president Farooq Abdullah. In 2002, Goni saw himself in the centre of multi-crore financial scam in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association. Farooq ensured that Goni is unscathed by the scam and even lobbied in the BCCI to have him as team manager of India for a tour in South Africa. A local news agency, however, quoted Goni saying "he has not joined the party at all". Attempts by the HT to reach Goni failed.
Goni, a treasurer and general secretary of state cricket association, was facing allegations of opening and operating bogus association bank accounts into which money received from the BCCI had been siphoned off.
Another entry into the Congress is Murtaza Khan, a former MLC from the PDP. Prominent leaders who joined the Congress are Thakur Balbir Singh, Gurbachan Kour, Ghulam Hassan Gilani, Tassaduq Hussain, Shafiq Mir, Zahida Khan, Bashir Ahmad Shah, Ghulam Hassan Rather, Gulzar Ahmad, Tafazul Hussain, Wali Mohammad and Najeeb Ali Shiekh.
The Congress also formed a high command and a disciplinary committee for Jammu and Kashmir with Gurmik Singh, GN Monga, Narbo Gailong, Vinod Sharma and Anvar Bhat as members.
The entry of these people assumes significance as the state is going for both parliamentary and the state assembly polls next year.
The Congress, which has spurred its activities in the state, has also formed an election committee for Jammu and Kashmir with state president Saifuddin Soz, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Tara Chand, Sham Lal Sharma, M Sharif Niyaz, BA Magray, Sham Paul, Khem Lata Wukhloo, Ravinder Sharma and M Aslam as members.
As of now, the Congress with 17 assembly seats is at number three in the state. While the NC with 28 remains at number one, the PDP is at number two with 21 seats. However, the Congress has emerged as a kingmaker and has ruled the state in coalition with the PDP and the NC since 2002.
“We are hoping to emerge as single largest party in next polls,” Soz had said recently.