The much-hyped visit of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairman Sonia Gandhi to Srinagar on May 29 was canceled at the eleventh hour due to differences with the Congress party rather than separatist shutdown call.
"The visit to Kashmir was cancelled due to time constraint. There is no factionalism within the party, nothing serious within the party," said J&K Pradesh Congress Committee president Saif-ud-Din Soz while skirting off the rumours that factionalism was responsible for the cancellation.
Congress president Gandhi's Jammu visit, however, will be on schedule on May 29. She is likely to inaugurate a tribal cultural centre for the Gujjar community and will address a rally there.
State Congress party leaders had issued a separate itinerary to the media earlier this week. According to that, Sonia was scheduled to lay foundation stone of a colony for displaced Dal dwellers in Srinagar and inaugurate the valley's only state-of-art Sangarmal shopping complex.
The shopping complex and its nomenclature has been a source of bitterness between the ruling coalition partners in Jammu and Kashmir --- the National Conference and the Congress.
Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand had suggested naming the shopping mall after Sonia Gandhi to the dislike of the coalition partner National Conference, which objected to it saying the name Sangarmaal retains the ethnicity of the mall, sources close to the developments said. Former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad already named the tulip garden after late Congress leader Indira Gandhi in the state.
The main reason, which sources close to the Congress party put forth, for the cancellation of the Sonia visit, is factionalism within the party. The deputy chief minister reportedly bypassed the party hierarchy to send an invitation to the UPA chairman.
The party in the state is divided between pro-Soz and pro-Ghulam Nabi Azad factions. Both eyeing the chief minister's seat in the state and have been cutting each other to size by issuing counter statements maligning each other. The process, though, has stopped for a long time now after high command stepped in. The deputy chief minister, who extended invitation to Gandhi, is from Azad camp that is why Gandhi is just traveling to Jammu, which has Azad's constituency. Sources said the UPA chairperson might visit the Valley on Soz's invitation in the future.
Soz downplayed hardline All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman Sayeed Ali Shah Geelani's shutdown call as the reason for the cancellation of the visit. "I don't think there is any relation between the shutdown call of the Shopian march call with Sonia I canceling the visit to Kashmir," said Soz.