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Cong divided on Amarnath land row

Cong divided on Amarnath land row

Author: D K Singh
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: August 9, 2008
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/346572.html

While the Congress has sought to blame the Sangh Parivar and the BJP for the Amarnath agitation, a delegation of party leaders from Jammu led by Udhampur MP Choudhury Lal Singh, who met AICC general secretary in charge of the state Prithviraj Chavan on Friday, stated that they believed it to be a people's movement. They are learnt to have told Chavan that the agitation was an expression of the "pent-up anger" of the people against discrimination meted out to them in the past.

A section of the ruling party is, however, critical of the way party leaders are being allowed to take the "Sangh Parivar line". They pointed out that most Congress MPs and MLAs from Jammu were supporting the agitation and there was no attempt by the central leadership to rein them in.

Fingers are also being pointed at former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad for his lack of foresight in diverting land to the Amarnath Shrine Board. "How could he not foresee how hardliners in the Valley would project the issue? Now people are blaming us for playing the Hindu card in Jammu. Worse, we appear to have lost all we had gained here in terms of a move towards peace," said a Congress Working Committee member.

Even at a meeting of party spokespersons from across the country this week, Azad had to face uncomfortable questions. One participant, for instance, asked him why he did not resign immediately after the PDP withdrew support. According to sources, Azad sought to pass some of the 'blame', saying the PDP was equally involved in the Cabinet decision to divert land to the Amarnath Shrine, before it made a complete turnaround for political reasons.

A section of the Congress is, however, not convinced. "It is inexplicable how we were sleeping until about a week back thinking that the agitation in Jammu would die a natural death. The Congress high command was not apprised of the seriousness of the situation by state leaders," said a party general secretary.

Another section of the party, however, supported Azad. "After things come back to normal, people will call Azad the biggest secular leader," said a minister.

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