The two factions within the coalition partner Congress continue to bicker over leadership issue hampering the party's reach to the people and affecting its expansion of its grass root base even as Kashmir continues to be gripped by a violent turmoil for five weeks now.
The fresh round of turf war between J-K Pradesh Congress Committee chief Saif-ud-Din Soz and Union Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's coterie, led by Abdul Ghani Vakil, was triggered by a debate within the party in New Delhi over the change of guard in Srinagar.
Many Congress leaders, including senior leader Karan Singh, support rotational chief ministership in Jammu and Kashmir, which will allow present Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of the National Conference to function for three years and the ally Congress to rule for the next three years.
This has triggered a race within the Congress party with both Soz and Azad eyeing the top post. The Soz faction accuses the latter of recruiting people with criminal background to increase the number of loyalists in the party.
There is a growing number within the Congress leaders in the state who support the rotational system.
Azad is supported by deputy chief minister Tara Chand, G M Saroori and Abdul Ghani Vakil and the Soz faction has the support of most of other leaders.
"The Azad lobby is taking advantage of the turmoil and is recruiting members randomly. The present turmoil is being used as a cover to expand base for the party elections," said pro-Soz leader.
Soz has questioned membership of many new members, including recent recruit Iqbal Khan by Virender Singh, an Azad loyalist and provincial retiring officer.
From this year, the Congress is planning to hold elections for the post of the PCC chief in Kashmir rather than appointing one. And both the factions have become active in expanding their respective bases.
"Let things happen in a democratic way within the party. But criminals cannot be allowed to join the party," said Soz, who reluctantly admitted there was bickering within the Congress.
"There is nothing major. But a few people try to create hurdles in the party functioning. At present, we need to reach out to people," said Soz, who got five lakh members registered with the party in this year, which includes more than 2 lakh members from Kashmir valley.
The rival faction leader, Vakil, discounted the allegations that members were registered despite grievances from any quarter.
"We have observers within the party and one can lodge complaint if he has issue with some member's recruitment," said Vakil adding the party was functioning smoothly.
Many senior congress leaders, including deputy chief minister Tara Chand, were conspicuously absent from the all-party meet organized by the chief minister two weeks ago.
The feud, however, is telling upon the functioning of the party. Except for the last week's public meet organized by Soz in violence-affected Anantnag, no such meetings have been held in other such areas with party occupied by the internal differences.