After seven months of arduous wait and bevy of speculations- whether the old guard would be axed or a blend of old and young be seen navigating the Congress- Rahul Gandhi finally affixed his stamp on the party’s highest decision making body the Congress Working Committee (CWC). It is a perfect blend of not only the old and young but also experience in its varied forms.
Jammu and Kashmir has always been a privileged state in terms of getting overwhelming representation in the CWC given its small size with six Lok Sabha seats. So has it something to do with the border state’s strategic significance in terms of geo-political placement or inner political compulsions that invariably leads to J&K getting a more than fair representation in the CWC.
There were times when the state had three or more CWC members, in different categories viz members, permanent invitees and special invitees. At no point in time the representation was less than two and the trend is reflective in the current formulation as well. The outgoing CWC had two stalwarts Dr Karan Singh and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad as the leading lights of the committee.
In terms of transitional shift from old to the young the new CWC can at best be said to be a small but significant step forward. It was but natural that some from among the old guard had to make way for new faces, young and not too young, in initiation of the beginning of the Rahul Gandhi era. Dr Singh, perhaps, fell in this category alongside seasoned campaigner and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singy, powerful AICC general secretaries Janardan Dwivedi, C P Joshi, Oscar Fernandes, Mohan Prakash and a few others.
Seemingly inconsequential and small, but a significant development visible in the CWC shake-up, has ostensibly gone unnoticed. At least this is the impression one gathers from media reports and analysis which have been more or less silent on J and K component of the CWC given the current political turmoil prevailing in the state with the Assembly in suspended animation and Lok Sabha elections approaching fast with organisationally Congress in a shambles in the state.
Tariq Hamid Qarra, one of the founder members of the Mufti Mohammed Sayeed led Peoples Democratic Party and subsequently his Finance Minister, finding his way as permanent invitee in the CWC. He had quit PDP some two years back after resigning his Lok Sabha seat in expression of his discomfiture over the party aligning with BJP and thereof ideological issues.
If Dr Singh, after remaining member of the CWC for decades, not retaining his slot despite being one of the few surviving witnesses of the political turmoil that the state faced since its inception in 1948, is a significant development, Qarra’s inclusion could have different meaning for different people, both inside and outside the Congress, who keenly watch the J and K developments. But it can neither be ignored nor overlooked so easily as it would have strong bearings on the party’s futuristic plans.
Ever since he had joined the Congress it was in the air that he came to the party with an understanding to be made the state Congress chief. Ostensibly, the inner permutations and combinations of the Congress in the state did not allow that to happen. It could be that the party high command in order to make up for their failure to fulfil that promise drafted Qarra in the CWC of course in recognition of his stature and potential.
It is not that he was out of reckoning all this while. He was included in the high power policy planning group of the Congress on J and K which is headed by former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and has Azad, former Home Minister P Chidamabram, PCC president and its senior vice president Ghulam Ahmed Mir and Sham Lal Sharma as its members. The committee has been visiting the three regions of the state for assessing the ground realities both from the Congress’ and general point of view.
It is an open secret that the Congress is facing a serious crisis of leadership in the state with Azad being the only proven and credible name that has steered the party’s ship many a time in the past. He being a national figure, Azad’s hands are too full to devote much time in the state and the fact that Congress has virtually no leader in the politically significant Kashmir region of the state which accounts for majority of the Assembly seats, makes Qarra’s advent significant given the fact that apart from his own stature he has a strong political lineage. A similar void also exists in Jammu region as well with current leadership of any consequence embroiled in serious factionalism.
He is not oblivious of the fact that entering CWC though a great honour was not without serious responsibilities that he was expected to discharge both in Congress in conjunction with Kashmir at the national levels, and of course to help in rejuvenating the party in the state. “It is immaterial whether I get any post or not, I am committed to strengthen Congress in the state in whatever manner the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi want me to do,” he said
His quiet and surprising elevation to the CWC has caught many unawares within and outside the Congress. For Qarra the challenges are serious and multifarious and that included establishing a working relationship with Azad on one side and with the Congress’s state leadership on the other. Given the current political turmoil in the State and the near revolt in PDP against the leadership of Mehbooba Mufti, there would be opportunities galore for him to prove his mettle.