Ghulam Nabi Azad’s move caught Congress brass off guard

Updated on Aug 18, 2022 09:05 AM IST

The senior leader's refusal to accept new responsibilities in the Jammu and Kashmir Congress has shocked several central leaders of the party.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. (ANI)
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. (ANI)
By, New Delhi

Former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s refusal to accept new responsibilities in the state Congress has shocked several central leaders of the party who contended that he was consulted extensively before reorganising the party panels in J&K, and his suggestions were considered by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

On Tuesday, hours after the Congress announced seven party panels and appointed a new president and working president in the J&K unit, Azad sent his resignation from two key panels. Azad, who was part of a group of 23, or G23, leaders who wrote to Gandhi in 2020 to seek a large-scale organisational overhaul, said: “I have resigned as the campaign committee chairman in J&K and also member of the political affairs committee there.”

Azad told his aides that his suggestions on the formation of the party panels in J&K were ignored by the leadership, a party functionary said. “The 73-year-old also cited health grounds to refuse the post,” the functionary added.

A leader close to Azad said, instead of being named to head state-level panels, someone of his experience should be given important roles in the central leadership of the party, and be brought back to the Rajya Sabha. Azad retired from the Upper House of Parliament as the Leader of the Opposition in February 2021.

Senior Congress leaders, however, maintained that the party leadership consulted Azad four times over the reorganisation of J&K unit, and the six panels. “The last consultation took place on July 14,” said a senior leader, adding that Azad had headed the campaign committee whenwhen Saifuddin Soz was the J&K Congress chief. “The role was offered to him keeping in mind his past experience as the campaign chief.”

Also Read: Azad's 'no' due to health reasons, says Cong; 'Was dissatisfied': J&K leader

A second leader said that Azad had given a list of names to be accommodated in these panel. “The list was actively considered by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and some of his nominees have found place in the panels,” he added.

Another senior leader argued that this is not the first time Azad refused assignments in J&K. “Rahul Gandhi had offered him to become the J&K Congress chief earlier this year but he declined the offer,” the senior leader said.

The Election Commission recently revised to November 25 the date of final publication of voters list of J&K – the UT’s first voters’ list after the boundaries of assembly seats were redrawn in the delimitation exercise.

“Azad rejected the offer because it is basically too little, too late from him. He might have expected a Rajya Sabha renomination... Moreover, the Congress is not in a strong position in J&K and his presence would not have drastically improved the party’s prospects,” political commentator Kay Benedict said.

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