Nearing three years as a partner in the National Conference-led coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, the state Congress leadership spoke of rotation of chief ministership at a rally for the first time on Tuesday.
The rally in north Kashmir’s Sangrama assembly constituency also saw state Congress president Saifuddin Soz being projected as the leader to replace chief minister Omar Abdullah.
“Time for our chief minister has come,” said Youth Congress leader Suhaib Lone, son of former education minister Mushtaq Lone who was assassinated in 2002.
“The Centre should realise that if the Congress does not take over chief ministership, it will have a negative impact on the party’s influence in Kashmir,” he added.
The rally reverberated with the slogan, “Next chief minister kaun banega? Soz sahib banega (Who will be the next chief minister? It will be Soz sahib).”
Soz, who attended the rally with party state vice-president Muzaffar Parray and senior leader Ghulam Nabi Monga, did not comment on rotating the chief ministership, but made the party’s stand clear.
“Congress is not Team B in Kashmir… Suhaib Lone’s speech was an emotional outburst,” he said.
Monga said, “Rahul Gandhi (Congress general secretary) has assured us he will take up the CM issue with (Congress president) Soniaji. We are waiting for the decision.”
Abdullah will complete three years as chief minister in December and the Congress has increasingly started asserting itself even as differences in the coalition have cropped up.
Soz recently told reporters the Congress local leadership was not consulted when Abdullah announced the Armed Forces Special Powers Act would be revoked from a few areas of the state.
The Congress had tasted power in the state under the rotating chief ministership system during its alliance with the People’s Democratic Party. The coalition had ruled from 2002 to 2008. Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was chief minister for the first three years before Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad took over.