Congress factions may reconcile in Jammu and Kashmir

August 16th, 2011 - 11:36 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Jammu, Aug 16 (IANS) Jammu and Kashmir’s Congress unit is finally set to end its internecine war.

The two factions led by central Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and state party chief Saif-ud-Din Soz are likely to join hands in the overall interest of the organization. The Congress is an ally to the ruling National Conference but it has been increasingly functioning like two divisive units.

Congress sources told IANS that some of its senior leaders had started working on a “reconciliation project”. Some of the ground has been covered and work was in progress to sink all the differences, they said.

Azad was chief minister during 2005-08 and state Congress chief earlier in 2002-05.

Some staunch Soz loyalists like Sham Lal Sharma recently met Azad. Both factions seem to agree that infighting was hurting the party.

Soz came to head the state party in January 2008. He had a working relationship initially. But in recent years, Azad and Soz loyalists have clashed on almost every occasion.

The divide sharpened after the 2008 election when the Congress tally was reduced from 21 to 17. Azad’s induction in the cabinet of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh heightened the tension.

Soz was unhappy over the “undue interference” in party affairs by Azad, while Azad loyalists complained they were sidelined by the former.

The Congress put up a good showing in the Panchayat elections but has concluded it could have done better had the two factions worked hand in hand.

“I think the high command has started working on the reconciliation project,” a Congress minister in the state told IANS.

The party is also feeling sidelined by the National Conference. Congress leaders complain that the National Conference is taking it for granted and ignoring it too very often.

Efforts to bring together Soz and Azad would be intensified once Congress president Sonia Gandhi returns from New York where she is recuperating after surgery, party sources said.

Azad and Soz loyalists have met in recent times.

Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, a hardcore Azad loyalist, and Revenue Minister Raman Bhalla, close to Soz, were seen together at a few functions in Jammu.

“It is in the mutual interest of the two leaders to work together. This will strengthen the party,” the minister said.

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