As the state government in Kashmir grapples with an unprecedented tourist rush this year, the Congress party has decided to make some extra bucks from the booming tourism.
The party’s multi-storey building meant for its workers at Srinagar’s heart Lal Chowk has been converted into a hotel this year.
A four-storey building of the Khidmat Trust Complex is busy hosting tourists, with full bookings for months together, with just one hall spared for party meetings at the top.
“We wanted to raise some money for the trust. Since tourism is picking up, we leased out the complex to an hotelier earlier this year,” said Nazir Ahmad Bhat, a senior member of the trust, which is headed by Congress stalwart Ghulam Rasool Kar.
The trust has Congress bigwigs like Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, former deputy chief minister Mangat Ram Sharma and M.L Fotedar as its members.
In 2006, then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, inaugurated the multi-storeyed hostel to strengthen the Congress party, which has only three MLAs from the valley out of 17, in Kashmir.
Azad has already announced Rs 1.50 crore estimates and sanctioned the same “for lodging facilities and quality food at cheaper prices for the party workers who come from far-flung areas to visit Srinagar.”
He instructed the work to be completed within six months. “We needed extra Rs 80 lakh for its renovation. The 22 rooms, which are leased out for hotel for five years, will help generate some funds,” said Bhat.
Kashmir is abuzz with tourists with the footfall number crossing 4.5 lakh in first five months. The government has permitted people to turn their houses into guest houses temporarily to accommodate the unprecedented rush of tourists. The Khidmat Complex has always been at the centre of Kashmir’s political upheaval. In 1964, when Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq defected from the National Conference to become prime minister of Kashmir, he took control of the building. It was a source of friction between the NC and the Congress in the past
During Azad’s rule, from 2005 to 2008, the leased land was purchased by the Congress-run Khidmat Trust under the newly floated Roshni Scheme for land purchases of leased land.