Weeks after the ruling National Conference (NC) faced a rout in the parliament polls, the party on Monday reportedly replaced its general secretary Sheikh Nazir after 18 years and handed over the reins to the old horse outside the Sheikh dynasty, Ali Muhammad Sagar.
NC chief Farooq Abdullah announced the decision at the core group of the party. Nazir, who is not keeping well, has been assigned patron's post. Nazir is also cousin of senior Abdullah and remained the general secretary since 1996.
Sagar, who is a face of Srinagar as the party is lagging behind in five out of eight assembly segments, holds rural development ministry portfolio right now.
The new assignment, which is bound to keep him busy, might pave way for his son Salman Sagar, to test waters in the upcoming assembly polls.
However, sources said Sagar will continue to be a minister till Omar's term ends this year. "The new assignment does not mean that he will vacate his ministry," confirmed a party source.
The move has come amidst the accusations against chief minister Omar Abdullah that he sidelined the senior leaders, close to senior Abdullah, over a period of time.
"He (Sagar) has his ears on the ground. He is constantly in touch with the grassroots workers. He is the first choice given his popularity within the party," said a senior party leader on the condition of anonymity.
Since the Lok Sabha debacle where the party lost all the six parliament seats to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), senior Abdullah chaired six meeting of the party core group.
The party, sources said, is planning to overhaul its structure where many sitting ministers and MLAs may be assigned a fresh job in the upcoming polls and fresh and young blood would be infused to stop the rise of PDP in the state.
Sagar taking over the key party position is an attempt by the NC to keep its focus on Srinagar, where a significant chunk of electorate slipped out of the NC hands for the first time in the history of the state. Sagar represents the Khanyar constituency of the old city in the state assembly.
Sagar, a time tested politician of the NC, has been the party's only credible face from Srinagar for long now.
Whether he can change the tide for the party remains to be seen. Srinagar remains the key for the NC to remain in power in the state.