A faction-ridden Congress in Jammu and Kashmir failed to mobilise its workers on the ground, thus turning Rahul Gandhi’s first visit to the state after the formation of the PDP-BJP government, into a flop show. Only a few hundred Congress workers turned up for his public meetings at Pampore and Dak Banglow in Sopore. The Congress, along with the National Conference, was in power in the state until last year. Later, to make matters worse, local journalists boycotted the Congress vice president in Srinagar, claiming that Gandhi’s NSG personnel had heckled them.
Congress leaders and workers on the ground have been protesting the elevation of Ghulam Ahmad Mir as the Pradesh Congress Committee chief. Party workers and leaders in Jammu in particular were hopeful that the vice-president would at least listen to their complaints. Instead, Rahul Gandhi sternly asked all dissident leaders to fall in line and obey his choice, Mir as the new PCC chief.
Rahul Gandhi had visited the state apparently to seek answers to the party’s debacle in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections, but his insistence that party workers should not confront Mir, made many unhappy. “We were sure that Rahul would play the role of a leader and bring all the estranged leaders in Jammu back into the party fold. But all he did was warn the senior leaders,” said a dissident Congress leader who was present at the meeting Rahul Gandhi held in Jammu. In July, three senior leaders were suspended by the Congress for alleged anti-party activities — former state ministers Abdul Gani Vakil, Gulchain Singh Charak and Prem Sagar Aziz. They had opposed Ghulam Ahmad Mir openly.
As for the public meetings in the Valley, Gandhi dared Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to get a substantial financial package from the Central government. He accused Mufti of cheating the people of the Valley by getting votes on the promise that he would stop the march of the BJP in J&K. “I know Mufti knows that he will get nothing from the Centre,” he said, asking what money the CM was getting to rebuild the flood-hit infrastructure in the state.
He devoted a substantial part of the meetings to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well, accusing him of dividing India. He predicted that a Congress-led government would return to the state after the next Assembly elections and described the present coalition government as a failure on the ground.
On Friday, after visiting the party headquarters in Srinagar amid tight security, he stopped his cavalcade at Lal Chowk and had tea and snacks at a roadside shop. He did a brief “chai pa charcha” with Ghulam Ahmad Mir there. “Rahul gave me Rs 200,” the shopkeeper said. Earlier, Gandhi visited Khirbawani temple at Ganderbal and the Hazratbal shrine.
The security agencies did not allow him to visit the ancestral village of Congress’ Sopore MLA, Abdul Rashid Dar after intelligence inputs about militant presence in the area. Security agencies also did not allow him to visit the Makdoom Sahib shrine in downtown Srinagar.