Resentment in J&K Congress over new chief

SRINAGAR, AUG. 21. A change of guard in the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the Congress has evoked strong resentment from most of the party leaders who have urged the Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Ghulam Nabi Azad, to continue on the post in "the larger interest of the party."

The Congress high command appointed the Rural Development Minister, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, as the new president of the Pradesh Congress Committee following Mr. Azad's reluctance to continue in the post given his pre-occupation at the Centre.

Mr. Azad headed the State unit for nearly two years and was credited with the party's splendid victory in the 2002 Assembly elections.

However, the decision from New Delhi has not been welcomed by a number of leaders in the State unit as they wanted to have a full time president who would effectively run the affairs of the party.

The disgruntled leaders made their resentment public and held a meeting at the party headquarters.

The meeting was presided over by senior vice-president Abdul Gani Vakil.

While expressing full faith in the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, they said the Congress was the only party in the State having grass-root level support and "we express gratitude to the Nehru family for having linear connections with Kashmir."

The leaders said the party would be strengthened only by persuading Mr. Azad to continue as the PCC chief.