Congress to project Ghulam Nabi Azad as next Jammu and Kashmir CM

The Congress in Jammu and Kashmir appeared divided on government formation, with one section demanding that the party keep open the issue and prevent the BJP from cobbling up a coalition in the state by “engineering” defections in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

But the dominant section, comprising influential leaders such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, expressed strong opposition to the idea and insisted that the party should demand fresh elections so that people are given a chance to elect a popular government, said a Congress leader who was present in the two-day marathon meeting in Srinagar.

At the end of the meeting on Wednesday, the state Congress also unanimously passed a resolution to project Azad, who is the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, as the party’s CM candidate for the next elections.

Congress leaders also cited the state’s stringent anti-defection law to dispel the apprehensions that the party may witness desertions in the wake of attempts by BJP to form the government.

J&K has its own anti-defection law, which is different from the central law. According to Constitutional expert and senior advocate Zafar Shah, if one or few legislators leave a party than the Speaker has the power to dismiss them as per the law. “However, if there is a split in the party, which is 50% of the legislators leave, the law does not apply,” he said.

“In 1984, when Ghulam Mohammad Shah engineered a split in the National Conference and formed a government with Congress support, the Speaker had moved court challenging it. But the high court recognised the split in the party and refused to take action against Shah and other legislators,” he said.

The 13th amendment to the constitution of J&K was enacted in 2005-06 when Azad was CM.

But former deputy CM and senior state BJP leader Kavinder Gupta reportedly stated his party was exploring the possibility of forming a government with “like-minded legislators” probably after the culmination of Amarnath pilgrimage next month.

BJP general secretary Ram Madhav was in Srinagar last week and is expected to visit again this weekend. During his previous visit, he had met Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Ghani Lone and independent legislator Engineer Rashid. Three PDP legislators — Imran Raza Ansari, Abid Hussain Ansari and Mohammad Abbas — have already raised a banner of revolt against party president and former CM Mehbooba Mufti. But Ansari ruled out joining the National Conference.

Asked if the party will take action against the rebels, senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar said the leadership will soon take a call. “J&K is not about numbers. It is the legitimacy of arrangement and credibility of New Delhi which is important. We see Kashmir beyond party politics. No military might, no muscular power can be the remedy,” he said.

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