Cong ‘forgives’ Sharma22 December 2010
Jammu: With the strong backing from state Pradesh Congress Committee, Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma seems to have got away with his controversial statement about the trifurcation of the state as the Congress high command, as per sources, has decided not to take any action against the minister. Speaking at a public rally in Bani Kuthua on December 5, Sham had said that Kashmir should be granted 'Azadi', Jammu statehood and Ladakh be declared a Union Territory. Following the furore over these remarks, Congress party’s Central Disciplinary Action Panel (CDAP), headed by senior leader A K Antony, served a showcase notice to Sham on December 11 asking him to explain his position within a week before the party initiates any action. Within four days after getting a showcase notice, Sham, as per sources, forwarded his explanation to the disciplinary action panel. Even as more than ten days have passed since the showcase notice was served, Congress high command seems to be in no mood to rake up the issue. The decision of Congress CDAP, which is believed to be in Sham’s favour, is likely to be taken in a day or two, sources said. Highly placed sources said the Congress high command was clearly told that any action against Sham could trigger serious problems for the party in Jammu region. “The senior party functionaries and the CDAP in Delhi discussed the issue of taking an action against Sham twice, and they have come to the conclusion that he be let off after a warning,” a senior Congress leader said. Meanwhile, according to sources Sham’s stand “against continued discrimination with the people of Jammu region” has enlarged his political base. He and his brother, Madan Lal Sharma, have become heroes during the last more than three weeks in Jammu region, Congress insiders said. The party camp loyal to PCC chief Saifuddin Soz, of which Sham is also a part, said the dissidents had stepped up their campaign against the health minister with the hope that his sacking from the cabinet could help chances of one of them to secure the vacant berth. “But that could never happen,” said a Soz loyalist, adding, 'We have conveyed to the party high command that any action against Sham can cause major erosion in Congress in the Jammu region.' The Soz loyalists have urged the Congress high command that if any action was required to be taken it should be taken against the dissidents “who have been weakening the party in the state”. Earlier, the state unit of Congress rallied behind the health minister, terming him as a 'bold voice' within the state cabinet of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. In a recently held press conference at Srinagar, PCC Vice President and spokesperson Muhammad Muzaffar Parray sought to downplay Sham’s remarks, saying he had been quoted out of context. 'He (Sham) actually wanted to alert the party rank and file against some detractors,' Parray had said, adding, 'The health minister was a bold voice of the party in the state cabinet.' Parray said the remarks of the minister were in response to the “inflammatory” statements made by some leaders of National Conference against Congress. 'Whatsoever has been attributed to him by various newspapers is not correct. He has been quoted out of context,' Parray, who is a close aide of Soz, said. Sources said Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has also praised Sham on many occasions. Sources said CM’s “soft corner” for Sham could be gauged from the fact that Omar and Sham appeared together at a public function in the border town of Rajouri, only a day after CM hinted at action against the health minister for his controversial statement.