In a major setback to Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Democratic Azad Party (DAP), 17 of its leaders rejoined the Congress on January 6. The development comes at a time when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra is slated to enter Jammu and Kashmir in February.
Azad had formed the DAP in September 2022 after parting ways with the Congress, following a months-long internal tussle of rebel leaders with the party’s high command.
All the 17 leaders who defected from the DAP are former Congress leaders who had quit the grand old party along with Azad in August. The list includes former J&K Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and former Pradesh Congress Committee (J&K) chief Peerzada Mohammmad Sayeed. The 17 leaders rejoined the Congress in the presence of Rajni Patil, AICC in charge of J&K, in the presence of senior Congress leaders K.C. Venugopal and Jairam Ramesh.
“Leaving Congress a blunder”
The leaders said that it was a blunder on their part to have left the Congress for the “friendship of a person [Azad]”. The statement comes at a time when there is general speculation that Azad’s outfit was bound to split the anti-BJP votes in Pir Panjal and Chenab region.
Chand said, “We were not comfortable in the DAP as we had spent 50 years in Congress and realised our mistake.” The return of the former Congressmen is expected to abate the organisational disarray within the Congress in J&K.
This is not the first time the DAP has taken a beating. On December 24, nearly 120 party workers resigned after Azad expelled Tara Chand, former Minister Manohar Lal, and former MLA Balwan Singh for alleged anti-party activities. Azad had then stated that the expelled leaders were appropriating power within the party and blocking opportunities for others. The expelled leaders, on the other hand, claimed that Azad was being swayed by a few leaders close to him and that he was increasingly averse to consultation and diversifying decision-making.
At any rate, the disorder within the DAP has raised serious questions on its sustainability, shortly after it was being touted as an emerging force in pockets of J&K.
The DAP has also faced accusations of covert arrangements with the BJP. Observers said that the party has not been active in Jammu, Kathua, or Samba districts where the BJP is in a strong position, and is instead focusing on Doda region.
Tara Chand said recently: “Those who want to join the BJP, should directly join it. There are people dividing the secular vote bank.” But Azad has categorically denied any arrangement or understanding with the BJP.