Is it a sheer coincidence that the resignation of Ghulam Nabi Azad from the Congress came a day after home minister Amit Shah chaired a high-level meeting on Jammu and Kashmir?
Though the buzz about Azad quitting the Congress had been going on for some time, the fact that the resignation happened a day after this meeting has raised some eyebrows.
It was not immediately known what transpired in the meeting that was also attended by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha and heads of security agencies and representatives from the armed forces.
According to Jammu and Kashmir watchers, the central government is ready to hold the assembly elections in the erstwhile state that was downgraded to a union territory in August 2019 at the time of revoking Article 370.
However, the government has not yet decided on the timing.
One view is that these could be held in November-December along with the assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
The other opinion is that these should not be clubbed with any state, as huge security arrangements will have to be made to conduct the polls in Jammu and Kashmir.
Given the haste shown by Azad to put in his papers after the meeting indicates that some announcement about elections is expected soon.
The contents of the five-page letter also suggested that it had been kept ready for a specific day.
Azad is expected to form his own party since joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will prove counter-productive, especially in Kashmir and the Muslim-majority Chenab valley, which comprises his home district Doda. There is a huge resentment against the saffron party in these areas.
And if he can win some seats, he will align with other parties, including the National Conference and the BJP, to form the government.
He shares a special bond with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who gave him a tearful send-off at the time of his retirement from the Rajya Sabha in February 2021.
Due to the Prime Minister’s intervention, the central government has indefinitely extended the allotment of his bungalow in Lutyens, Delhi. This has been done as a special case.
Azad, in the opening para of his resignation letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, also sought to cosy up to the National Conference by referring to the imprisonment of late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. His grandson Omar Abdullah promptly reciprocated the gesture by attacking the Grand Old Party on Azad’s exit.
A man who has been treated by the greatest respect by the Congress leadership has betrayed it by his vicious personal attacks which reveals his true character. GNA’s DNA has been modi-fied.
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) August 26, 2022
As expected, several loyalists of Azad from Jammu and Kashmir also quit the Congress as a mark of solidarity with him.
It is said that Azad was also unnerved by the rise of Tariq Karra in the Congress. Karra, a co-founder of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), had quit the party in protest against its alliance with the BJP. He had resigned from the Lok Sabha too.
The popularity of Karra in Jammu and Kashmir significantly increased after his decision to snap his decades-old ties with Muftis (Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba).
Soon after the announcement of various committees by the Congress for Jammu and Kashmir, Azad quit all the panels. It was primarily in protest against the move to appoint Karra as the head of the important Political Affairs Committee and the number two in the Campaign Committee.
It is also a known fact that Azad had always been uncomfortable with Karra from the times of their being together in the government in the erstwhile state.
Karra was the Finance, Planning and Law minister in his government after Muzaffar Hussain Beig was removed from the cabinet.
Karra had frequent runs-in with Azad as the then PDP leader put his foot down on many political, administrative and developmental issues, which Beig had never done.
Azad had always been exerting his head to heel to stop the emergence of Karra, an outsider, in the Jammu and Kashmir Congress and at the national level.
He was upset with the Gandhis for bringing Karra into the party fold and then inducting him as a member of the all-powerful Congress Working Committee (CWC). Karra became the first and the only Kashmiri Muslim face ever in the CWC.
That had riled Azad, for he never wanted anyone else from the erstwhile state to emerge in the Congress at the national level.
Congress leaders claim that
Azad’s love-hate relationship with Karra has displayed his deep hidden insecurities.
They added that Karra in the Congress circles in Delhi is considered as a right-thinking politician and a very credible face with a clean image.
All eyes will now be on Azad as he gets ready with his future moves.