The Congress has made inroads upon the mainstream political base in the Kashmir valley, by enrolling 2.10 lakh members in five months, an all-time high. The membership figures from the snow-bound areas are yet to turn up.

Furthermore, 2,000 delegates have been enrolled to form the electoral college that will choose the PCC office-bearers.

A team of the Central Election Committee of the All-India Congress Committee, led by Tajdar Babar, monitored the process.

Ghulam Nabi Monga, senior vice-president of the Pradesh Congress Committee who was in charge of the membership drive, told The Hindu that the response to the drive was tremendous.

PCC president Saifuddin Soz, who most Congress leaders credit with having given the party a toehold in the State in the past few years, supervised the drive.

“It is because of his leadership that people have reposed faith in our party,” a senior leader said. Mr. Soz does not encourage factionalism.

In the past, the Congress membership in Kashmir has never crossed one lakh. This time, the increase is significant, given the political turbulence the State, especially the Kashmir valley, has gone through in the past 20 years.

“It is not an ordinary membership drive, in which the people just put their names down, but we have collected their photographs and membership fee too,” Mr. Monga said, pointing to the bundles of membership forms being sorted out in the PCC office.

“It is unbelievable, as women in large numbers were eager to become members,” he said. Women account for 20-25 per cent of the membership.

Another highlight of the drive this time is that many educated young men have opted to join the national party, ignoring the regional parties such as the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party.

Another significant addition in the membership is that of quality with many educated young men preferring the Congress party. A large number of youth who are graduates and post graduates have opted to join the national party instead of regional ones like National Conference or Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

“We are inspired by the policies of this party and see a bright future in it,” says Musadiq Ahmad, a graduate from Budgam. There are many like him who want to try their luck in politics, but “are fed up with its exploitative nature.”

The members enrolled in the snow-bound areas of Kargil, Leh and Gurez are yet to be counted. “We extended the deadline in some areas because of weather problems, and we are still collecting the forms,” Mr. Monga said. Officially, the drive in the valley ended in January.

Interestingly, Jammu region is behind Kashmir as for the number of memberships is concerned.