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Divided Congress to haunt Rahul on his J&K visit

When Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi will visit Jammu and Kashmir on May 17 to attend a conference of Pahari-speaking people, the fissures within his party will come to haunt him.

india Updated: May 10, 2010 17:08 IST
Peerzada Ashiq
Peerzada Ashiq
Hindustan Times

When Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi will visit Jammu and Kashmir on May 17 to attend a conference of Pahari-speaking people, the fissures within his party will come to haunt him. To pre-empt any embarrassing situation, junior Gandhi has instructed a secret Congress team to investigate the reasons behind the internal bickering, besides "impartial and genuine" profiling of ten fresh recruits of the youth Congress.Despite calling two senior ministers from the state --- Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and Minister of Medical and Technical Education RS Chib – to New Delhi by the party high command last month, the "reprimand" has yielded no results between the warring factions on the ground.The Congress party, which has emerged as kingmakers in the state since 2002 elections, is witnessing a vertical divide with senior leader Saif-ud-Din Soz, Pradesh Congress Committee chief, on one side and former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s coterie on the other.While Soz hails from Kashmir and Azad from Jammu, it’s not regional divide that is keeping the two towering Congress leaders at loggerheads. Partly the bickering is personal and party power politics that is telling upon the functioning of the party in the state. The two leaders never go well with each other ever since Soz joined the party after leaving the National Conference.Soz is supported by state health minister RS Chib, senior leader Ghulam Rasool Kar, Azad has loyalists like deputy chief minister Tara Chand, state minister GM Saroori and Gani Vakil. Vakil, who rose high in the party ranks during the tenure of Azad as chief minister, has been the most vocal against Soz.What has fuelled recent show of power and assertion of clout by the rivals --- which was obvious when Azad organized a function to pay tributes to slain Congress leader Maqbool Dar in south Kashmir, while another faction led by Soz held a rally on party’s 125th year of foundation in the same district on the same day --- is the talk about chief ministership being rotated after completion of three years by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. The Congress is ruling the state with the help of the National Conference of the Abdullahs.Sources said junior Gandhi is unnerved by the division who has given patient hearing to statements made by the rival groups in their defense. A secret team has been constituted to file a complete report on what is causing the division. Two, it has been tasked to profile new recruits and see their which group they are leaned towards, sources added.The bad news of division has come at a time when the Congress is growing by leaps and bounds in the state. It has enrolled 2.10 lakh members in five months, an all-time high. For the first time, 2,000 delegates were enrolled to form the electoral college that will choose the PCC office-bearers.The internal fighting has stooped to a low where indirect corruption allegations were being leveled by party leaders against each other in public. At a public rally recently in north Kashmir, Vakil sought a commission to look into wealth of senior ministers and investigate their land holdings. Soz has reportedly bought some land recently in Budgam area.Despite assurances by the party high command, Soz, according to people close to him, thinks Azad can pull the rug if chief ministership is rotated in Kashmir between the NC and the Congress.Reports suggested that boys from local gyms were called in by rival factions to express muscle power against each other. The allegations refuted by party leaders.

First Published: May 10, 2010 17:03 IST