Mohiuddin draws ire for speaking against party line

The Congress rank and file upped its ante on Monday against senior leader and Minister for Public Health Engineering and Irrigation Taj Mohiuddin for his remarks about the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and against rotational Chief Minister after Omar Abdullah completes three years in office in January.

A day after senior Ministers Sham Lal Sharma and Raman Bhalla criticised him for his statement that Mr. Abdullah had taken him into confidence on the AFSPA, party leaders demanded action against him, saying “he has no right to be in the Council of Ministers.”

As the State Congress had distanced itself from the issue of withdrawing AFSPA from certain areas, this line was endorsed by the party high command in Delhi as well. “We [Congress] were not taken into confidence and there are many actors in the process,” Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Saifuddin Soz had said. “Omar alone cannot do this.”

Besides Congress leaders Mohan Prakash and Abhishek Singh, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram also echoed this view. Mr. Chidambaram said the concerns of the State Congress were “perfectly understandable,” though the decision was taken by Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) last year.

The majority of the Congress leaders criticised Mr. Mohiuddin for crossing the party line. On Sunday, senior vice-president of the PCC Muzaffar Parray wrote to the PCC chief asking him to seek an explanation from Mr. Mohiuddin. “No Minister or a worker can speak on behalf of the party. The president is the ultimate authority to air the views and stand of the Congress. Taj's statement has been taken serious note of by the party high command,” Mr. Parray said.

Professor Soz, on his return from New Delhi, would take up the issue and a final opinion would be formed.

Senior Congress leader and MLC Bashir Ahmed Magray said Mr. Mohiuddin's action did not behove a Minister with a good portfolio. “He has crossed the line for which he needs to explain his position,” he said.

In Jammu too, leaders who had gathered to pay tributes to the former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, on her death anniversary demanded action against him. “State leaders have no authority to speak on policy matters like AFSPA or the rotational chief minister. It is up to the party high command,” said veteran leader and the former Deputy Chief Minister, Mangat Ram Sharma. Sources said that both factions of the Congress were united in criticising the Minister and were rallying behind the PCC chief on the issue of AFSPA.

Professor Soz told The Hindu that Mr. Mohiuddin was clearly in the wrong. “There was no need to hold a press conference and he cannot speak for the party. I have received representations from the rank and file of the party on this. They are genuine.”