March 2002 News

Sonia wants NC-Cong Govt in J&K

29 March 2002
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak

New Delhi: With the successful completion of her political probation, Ms Sonia Gandhi, the AICC president and leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, has plans to pursue a new strategy in the country’s most sensitive State of Jammu and Kashmir in the coming days and weeks. The strategy has not been made public yet, simply because Ms Sonia Gandhi wants to constitute her think-tank on Kashmir first and then start her exercise on the State’s political scene. A top Sonia loyalist told EXCELSIOR at the AICC headquarters on Delhi’s Akbar Road on Thursday that the Congress president favoured discussions with senior party leader from J&K next month on how to forge ''working relationships'' with secular forces in the State ''particularly in the context of the coming Assembly elections.'' By far the most significant feature of the undisclosed strategy is pro-Farooq Abdullah. Even as some elements in the central leadership of the Congress party are inimical to the National Conference supremo and Chief Minister, Dr Farooq, Ms Sonia Gandhi is said to have been influenced by the calculations, loaded with pro-Farooq accent, of two of her principal aides, Mr Kamal Nath and Mr K Natwar Singh. Ms Sonia wants to built bridges with Dr Farooq Abdullah, obviously as part of her strategy to introduce a different political culture in Jammu and Kashmir by ensuring the formation of the combination of groups committed to the State’s accession to the Indian Union and preserving the territorial integrity and unity. Ms Sonia would like emergence on the scene of a Congress-National Conference Government following the Assembly elections in J&K before the end of the year. ''If we can join hands with Mr Sharad Pawar and his Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra, why can’t our party revive friendly ties with Dr Farooq Abdullah and his National Conference party in Jammu and Kashmir'', Mr Kamal Nath was said to have told Ms Sonia during one of his meetings with her after the UP elections. This issue cropped up when Mr Kamal Nath was called to 10, Janpath for discussion on revitalising Congress in States such as J&K, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, UP, Goa and Haryana. That Mr Kamal Nath has in recent times managed to emerge as Ms Sonia’s Man Friday has been borne out by the acceptance of a few of his unpublished proposals by the Lady of 10, Janpath. According to insiders, it was Mr Kamal Nath’s gameplan which culminated in the transfer of senior Congress general secretary of the AICC. Mr Pranab Mukherjee, from Delhi to Kolkata as the chief of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee. Cash-rich Kamal Nath is willy and highly ambitious. Naturally, he and his close associates in the party could not be expected to tolerate for long the ''assertive'' role of equally ambitious politician, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad. The camp against Mr Azad did not take long to dislodge him after the elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Insiders said that Ms Sonia Gandhi shifted Mr Azad to J&K as the PCC chief in place of Mr Mohammed Shafi Qureshi. The transfer of Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, considered a powerful figure in the AICC, to his home State is viewed as a demotion. Mr Azad, who was in charge of important States such as UP, Uttranchal and Kerala, has also held charge of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry when these States went to the polls. Congress-watchers cannot be faulted for their-one-liner: Mr Azad is a loser by his removal from the national scene to the State scene.


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