NEW DELHI: Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad is all set to launch his own party and its first unit would come up in Jammu and Kashmir within a fortnight, his close confidant GM Saroori said today.
Mr Saroori asserted that the restoration of the pre-August 5, 2019 position of Jammu and Kashmir will be part of the party's manifesto.
A former minister who was among several prominent Congress leaders of Jammu and Kashmir who resigned from the basic membership of the party in support of Mr Azad, Mr Saroori said their leader was ideologically secular and there was no question of him working at the behest of the BJP.
He also claimed that hundreds of senior Congress leaders, Panchayati Raj Institution members and prominent workers have tendered their resignations after the former chief minister ended his over five-decade-long association with the national party.
"Azad is coming to Jammu on September 4 to hold consultations with his well-wishers before the launch of our new party," Mr Saroori, a former vice-president of the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the Congress, told Press Trust of India.
Hours after his resignation on Friday, Mr Azad said he would launch a new party soon and that its first unit would be set up in Jammu and Kashmir.
"I am in no hurry as of now to launch a national party but keeping in mind that elections are likely to be held in Jammu and Kashmir, I have decided to launch a unit there soon," Azad, who hails from the Bhaderwah township of Doda district, had told Press Trust of India on Friday night.
Mr Saroori, who along with several former legislators met with Mr Azad in New Delhi on Friday to extend their support, said the veteran politician was going to "announce the launch of the party within the next fortnight".
"We are happy that he is returning to Jammu and Kashmir where he served as Chief Minister (from November 2, 2005 to July 11, 2008). People view his rule as a golden era and want him back to pull out Jammu and Kashmir from the present situation," he said, adding that his support base is spread across Jammu and Kashmir.
Mr Saroori said the new party would focus on development, unity among all sections of the society, and would struggle for restoration of the pre-August 5, 2019 position.
On August 5, 2019, the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two Union territories.
Mr Saroori said the Congress is almost finished in Jammu and Kashmir with the departure of Mr Azad.
"There is a beeline of leaders (from Jammu and Kashmir) coming to meet Ghulam Nabi Azad to extend their support. We have received hundreds of resignation letters from PRI members, including district and block development council members, and several municipal corporators," he said.
Over a dozen leaders, including several former ministers and legislators, resigned from the basic membership of the Congress in support of Mr Azad and many more such as former deputy chief minister Tara Chand are likely to resign after meeting with Mr Azad in New Delhi today.
Referring to the statement of the Congress accusing Azad of "collaboration" with the BJP after his resignation, Mr Saroori said those criticising him were shutting their eyes to the ground realities or were finding the earth beneath their feet slipping away.
"He is a secular leader who worked to strengthen the Congress over the past five decades. In fact, all of us have given our blood and sweat, but how can you stay back in a party which is insulting and humiliating you," he asked, blaming the Congress leadership for compelling them to take such a decision.