By R.C. Ganjoo
After a 30-year-long wait, Congress is back in the saddle in J&K. It is now an actual testing time for Ghulam Nabi Azad to show political ability on home turf, which is a turbulent state. Ghulam Nabi Azad has always enjoyed Kashmir politics from outside. He has been the architect of keeping J&K Pradesh Congress in the state of dissidence. Eventually, Ghulam Nabi Azad is caught into his own web where he will have to face a handful opponents within his own party, of course with the latent support of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
Azad vs. Mufti: It will not be smooth sailing for Ghulam Nabi Azad to run the coalition government with the support of Mufti'sPDP party. Sayeed, well versed with the Congress culture, preferred to rule the state at first chance so that he could expand his new-born party to every nook and corner of the state. Both Azad and Mufti were archrivals during the days when the latter was heading the J&K Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC). Azad created all possible hurdles for Mufti, to make him an unsuccessful leader of Kashmir. It was due to political frustration that Mufti quit Congress and joined V.P. Singh'sJan Morcha and later Janata Dal and became union home minister. While, on the other hand, Azad too played his cards well. When he was losing his image, he joined hands with Farooq Abdullah for his Rajya Sabha seat so as to remain active in Delhi durbar.
But pushing Azad as JKPCC chief was against his wishes. He never wanted to malign his image in state politics. However, he had to accept this post reluctantly. But fortune again smiled on him at the time of assembly elections in which Congress did well in Kashmir. Despite adding a feather to his cap, he escaped the state with the Rajya Sabha seat followed by a ministerial berth in union cabinet as urban development minister. However, he installed his own ?yes man? Peerzada Mohd Sayeed as party chief to run the show through proxy.
Jammu vs. Kashmir: The change of guards may once again trigger Jammu vs. Kashmir conflict. Sayeed is past master in creating such situations. He played this card of Jammu vs. Kashmir during the regime of Dr Farooq Abdullah in 1983 when Congress was in the opposition. The Congress was labelled as Hindu party by Kashmiris and Dr Farooq Abdullah'sNational Conference was painted as Muslim party by Jammuites. This watchword kept both the regions at dagger-drawn till Farooq Abdullah joined hands with Rajiv Gandhi.
Before Mufti handed over the baton to Azad, he played a very calculated game by creating two lobbies within Congress. One lobby supported Azad'sreturn to Kashmir as Chief Minister and the other lobby stood behind Mufti for his continuation as Chief Minister for three more years. This move of Mufti was deliberate to bring the situation at a breaking point. While on the other front Congress had literally reached ?now or never? situation because of its commitment with the people of Jammu, from where it won 15 seats that Congress will rule the state surely for three years. Behind the move of making Azad the Chief Minister, a strong lobby in Congress consisting of Salman Khurshid, Ahmad Patel and Ambika Soni ganged up to push him back to Kashmir politics.
Mufti'snew strategy will revive his old tactics of Centre'sdirect command on Kashmir, and Jammu vs. Kashmir politics. For this strategy, he would never mind to have the support of separatist elements to politically axe Azad in his own den.