Azad's Secret Visit To Valley Leads To Speculation
6 July 2005
The Indian Express
Jammu: UNION Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad made a three-day secret visit to Srinagar and flew back to Delhi today. Even many of senior party leaders were not aware about it. Sources said the purpose of Azad's visit was to observe the ground situation in the state before taking a final decision about his future keeping in view the proposed change over in the government in November this year. His visit has also given rise to speculation about his return to his home state as chief minister. Azad stayed at Srinagar for three days and flew back to Delhi today. Sources said things would depend on the proposed reshuffle in the Union Ministry. Sources told The Indian Express that during his visit, Azad met a few of his confidants and also had a long meeting with J&K Pradesh Congress chief Peerzada Sayeed. People close to Azad said the purpose of his visit to Srinagar was to observe the political and security situation in the state so that he could take a decision about his return in future. Even many of the leaders were not aware the about Azad's presence in Srinagar. Though it was termed as a 'private visit', sources confirmed that Azad discussed politics during these three days. He has been given a hint by the party high command that Congress was ready to take the reins of the government in J&K in November. Sources said Azad was not willing to become chief minister in the state. If Azad is made the chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed would have to be adjusted in the Centre on an important position, which, observers feel, does not suit Azad. However, the party high command feels that Azad will be the most suitable person for chief ministership if Congress takes over in J&K. However, things will depend on the choice of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Though the names of PCC chief Peerzada Sayeed and former PCC chief Ghulam Rasool Kar are also in the fray for the chief ministership, Azad is considered to be the first choice of the party high command, which is also eying the security scenario in the state. Senior Congress leaders at Delhi feel that if there is a Congress-led government in the state, it will be easy for the UPA government at the Centre to take any decision about Jammu and Kashmir. However, some of the Congress leaders also do not rule out mid-term Assembly polls in the state. Though the Ansari faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has denied the possibility of their participation in the elections in the near future, the Centre has been trying to prepare separatist groups for the same. In 2002, too, he was sent to his home state as Pradesh Congress Committee chief, months before the Assembly elections in the state, to revive the party organistion in the strife-torn state. However, after he joined the Union ministry, he quit as PCC chief.