February 2008 News

Twin Challenge To New PCC Chief Soz

16 February 2008
The Hindu

Srinagar: Union Minister for Water Resources Saifuddin Soz has a Herculean task ahead in his new role as president of the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee. Apart from the bigger challenge of leading his party to the Assembly elections, his real test would be to avoid factionalism in the party. Though he has a strong backing from Congress president Sonia Gandhi who chose him for the job, Prof. Soz will have to use political acumen to take the party rank and file along. Being suave and clean will certainly help him to build trust among the cadre in view of serious allegations of corruption against his fellow colleagues, most of whom Ministers. His predecessor and the former Education Minister, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, had been forced to resign over allegations of corruption. But many people believe that it will not be easy for him to play a parallel role against Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who made history by bringing back his party to power after 30 years, when he led the party as PCC chief in the 2002 elections. Both Prof. Soz and Mr. Azad have said that they would work in tandem to safeguard the partyís interests. But at the same time the pressure mounted by many State Congress leaders to hand over the PCC baton to Mr. Azad does indicate that all is not well with the party. It goes without saying that his appointment as PCC chief will normalise relations between Congress and its major ally PDP in the State which according to insiders was one reason why he was chosen for the post. But how he takes the electoral struggle to the people, that too by maintaining the balance among three regions of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh, will be watched by the observers. Analysts are of the view that in case he succeeds in striking a pre-poll alliance with the PDP, it would not only benefit him as PCC chief but also the party in looking towards the return of power in the State. There are other issues also which many believe Prof. Soz will face while delivering as the man from Delhi. Will he be given a free hand in nominating partymen for the polls or will he have to go purely by Mr. Azadís or Delhiís choice? Another crucial question is the time Prof. Soz could give in managing the party affairs, that too at the time of elections.

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