17 State leaders from Azad’s party return to Congress before Bharat Jodo Yatra in J&K

17 State leaders from Azad’s party return to Congress before Bharat Jodo Yatra in J&K

Days before the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra enters Jammu and Kashmir, at least 17 state leaders, including former deputy chief minister Tara Chand and former state unit chief Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed, left Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Democratic Azad Party (DAP) and returned to the Congress. The exit of these leaders is seen as a major blow for the DAP’s prospects in J&K.

The padayatra will end on January 30 in J&K. The re-entry of the 17 senior leaders is set to strengthen the Congress organisation and also send the message that the party is getting stronger ahead of the yatra and crucial assembly elections expected to be held this year.

Welcoming the leaders back to the party fold, Congress general secretary for organisation KC Venugopal said, “People from all like-minded political parties are joining us in J&K. former CMs Farooq Abdullah Ji, Mehbooba Mufti Ji, are all joining us [the yatra]. Anyone who has a Congress mindset cannot sit idle. That’s why, all these leaders, who left us two months before, took a strong decision to come back to the Indian National Congress, walk with Rahul Gandhi and make the Bharat Jodo Yatra a great programme in J&K.”

The Congress has kept its doors open for all like-minded parties to join the yatra in J&K but Azad, who quit Congress in 2022 and criticised Rahul Gandhi’s leadership style, is unlikely to participate.

Azad, who floated the DAP in September last year, remained unfazed. He said the 17 leaders lost their seats in the delimitation exercise. “The people who rejoined Congress had lost their constituencies in delimitation exercise. Being old collogues, I gave them good posts in my parry despite knowing that they can’t contest elections. The party they joined is not aware that they have already lost their constituencies,” said Azad. The delimitation of constituencies, which added six seats in Jammu and one in Kashmir, was completed on May 5 last year.

Tara Chand, Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed, ex-MLA Balwan Singh and leaders such as Md. Muzaffar Parray, Mohinder Bhardwaj, Bhushan Dogra, Vinod Sharma, Narinder Sharma, Naresh Sharma, Ambrish Magotra, Subash Bhagat, Santosh Manhas, Badri Nath Sharma, Varun Magotra; Anuradha Sharma, Vijay Targotra and Chander Prabha Sharma were among the party leaders who returned to the Congress.

Chand and Sayeed admitted the “emotional decision” to join Azad’s outfit was a “mistake”. Venugopal and senior leader Jairam Ramesh dubbed their exit as a “vacation of family members”.

When asked if the party has invited Azad, Venugopal said, “What is the problem, he himself denied. You have already answered that question, finally. In the beginning, we said that those who believe in the ideology of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, can join. All are welcome.”

Chand also questioned Azad’s intent and said, “Today the whole of India and especially the secular forces in Jammu and Kashmir need to be strengthened. Efforts are being made to take the wrong place; efforts are being made to weaken the secular forces. So, we came back to our house again.”

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